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'Grandma Great' attends university at 79, proves anything is possible: 'Just do it'

Sharon Barber, also known as 'Grandma Great' has been inspiring people both on campus and the internet.

'Grandma Great' attends university at 79, proves anything is possible: 'Just do it'
Cover Image Source: Youtube / CBS News

"Grandma Great," 79, is a proud "senior" student at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Sharon Barber had put school on hold to raise her family decades ago. After retiring as a substitute teacher with 16 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, she walks through the campus again. "It was scary," Barber told CBS News. The first classes I took — my textbooks — I was like...'What even does this say? What does this mean?' I don't even know. So it was daunting at first." Her classmate Sonia Gonzalez is very proud of Barber. "There isn't a certain age to go back to school. And she proved that."



Barber, also known as "Grandma Great," is a famous TikTok user with over 2 million followers. Her content inspires millions both on campus and on the internet. "I have 2.2 million TikTok grandchildren," she said. "I feel I'm making a connection with people." She is a living example of the fact that anything is possible regardless of your age. You can do everything you set your mind to as long as you have the drive and the courage. "Just do it," Barber said. "And just know that all you have to do is just do your best. That's all. It doesn't matter how old you are." According to Freshered, she produces motivational and uplifting videos and calls her viewers "beautiful friends."




In her videos, she talks about her life as a senior student. She has also been transparent about her educational journey as a senior woman. Also, she has met with so much support and love. However, Barber is not the only one chasing her dreams. A 90-year-old great-grandmother who graduated from college has a message for anyone who wants to make their dreams come true. "Keep going. Don't give up," Joyce Viola DeFauw told GMA in a phone interview. "You might feel like it and all that, but just hang in there because the end will come and you will be victorious." DeFauw was a student at Northern Illinois University in 1951, studying early elementary education and later, home economics. But she decided to drop out after getting married to start a family with her first husband.



The mom of 9 and a grandmother to 17 and a great-grandmother to 26, she never forgot about college. "I must have told the children that I wish I'd finished back in the 1950s," DeFauw recalled. "And so, they suggested that I go back and I thought, 'Well, OK,' but I needed a computer … and they got one for me and so I've been able to use it and enjoy it since." She enrolled at NIU in August 2019 and began to take online courses for a bachelor's degree in general studies. Things seemed hard and she wanted to give up but never did. DeFauw told "GMA" she feels "very happy and thankful" for being able to achieve her dreams.


"We get to exchange ideas and things through the computer and I've had wonderful instructors that helped me and suggested things and guided me," DeFauw said. "As far as the encouragement of everyone -- my friends and my family and my teachers -- I just couldn't give up." For anyone out there who is still looking to chase their dreams, DeFauw has some advice for you. "There's so much that life offers that you miss out on if you don't take advantage of it."

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