When 94-year-old Amy Craton accepted her diploma earlier this week, she become one of the world’s oldest college graduates — and she couldn’t be more proud of the big accomplishment.
“You can’t live without knowledge!” Craton tells PEOPLE. “Education is living.”
The grandmother of 12 earned her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University’s online program. And SNHU president Paul LeBlanc flew to Craton’s home-state of Hawaii on Monday to present her with the certificate.
Craton donned a traditional lei for the graduation celebration, where friends and family gathered to support her.
“I’ve always wanted to have my degree,” she says. “In the back of my mind that goal has always been there, but things get in the way, life gets in the way.
“But now I did it!”
Craton decided to pursue her degree for one simple reason: “I like to learn!” she explains.
And although she attended Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, in 1962, Craton was forced to put her education on hold so she could support her four children after she and her husband divorced.
“I found myself getting older, in a chair, really not having a life or doing anything,” says Craton. “But I really like to learn.”
So, the grandmother started her degree in September of 2013, opting for SNHU’s online program, because she is hard of hearing.
“Though I do hear, it was difficult making out what the professor was saying, but then I found out about online classes,” she explains. “It was definitely for me.”
And, her decision to major in English stems from her love of writing — especially poems and haikus.
“I think if you have a chance to go back to school, if you’re capable of going back to school, I see no reason why you shouldn’t go back,” says Craton. “It keeps you living in life, being a part of life, not just withdrawing. If you’re reaching out to other people, learning not only from school, it seems to prepare you to want to know more things than what you just get from school.
“If you have the chance to go back, by all means go to school.”
With her new degree, Craton hopes to write a children’s book. But, she says she’s not done with school quite yet.
“Now I’m pursuing my master’s [degree] in Creative Writing and English!” she says. “The more you know, the more you want to know, the more open your life is.
“Education gives you life.”