Student Gives New Meaning to "Senior" Class
Sharon Marshall O’Neill is a woman who believes that the word “can’t” is the dirtiest word in the English language. She’s also quick to list a number of accomplishments that she was told can’t be done… Secretarial courses, Accounting courses, the Civil Service test, employment through the Board of Education, and ultimately 34 years of service at the Department of Treasury. These are all achievements that have paved a path for a comfortable retirement that many would be glad to boast. Sharon’s different, and before she lays claim to obstacles overcome, she is fast to emphasize that her accomplishments weren’t without conflict.
“I had a very bad childhood, and a very bad marriage. This isn’t uncommon to what many people go through, but I encourage people who go through these situations to get past them,” O’Neill stated, then added, “You can’t let it stop you!”
This advice might strike some as universal, but the weight of the message augments when you consider Sharon’s situation. That’s because O’Neill has opted to pursue her college degree at the remarkable age of 75.
People told me, ‘You can’t go back to school at your age’…“Here I am!
“I’ve been here since September of 2009 and I have an A average,” stated O’Neill with certain enthusiasm.
Sharon is currently pursuing her Associate’s degree with an emphasis in history. What’s more, she intends to get her Bachelor’s degree following her Associate’s.
“I will be over 80 by the time I receive my Bachelor’s degree,” she stated.
Regarding her motivation to attend college at the age of 73, Sharon attributes her tenure to the goals she has set.
“You’ve got to make yourself do it… you can’t just fiddle. If you set one goal, then make the next one bigger,” said O’Neill. She’s fast to reiterate that being told she can’t attend college at her age played a role in her attendance. On the subject of motivation, Sharon is quick to comment, “Can’t is the dirtiest word in the English language.”
In comparing her academic efforts today to her past studies, she feels school today is a lot harder than it used to be. More specifically, she shared that the hardest part of her experience has been the memorization that curriculums encompass. “I don’t think there has been one class that we didn’t have to memorize in,” O’Neill stated.
Beyond academics, it is a spectacle to witness the energy of life that Sharon brings to academia. She will tell you herself that her determination comes from her willingness to learn new things.
“Don’t let a day go by where you didn’t learn something new. Whether it’s a new word, whether you meet somebody new, you have to have change. It’s a dynamic world, and you can’t just be a vegetable,” said O’Neill.