Vincentian woman graduates Brooklyn College at age 66
Ulia Hazelann Cooke
Front Page
June 9, 2023
Vincentian woman graduates Brooklyn College at age 66

by Jada Chambers

Former Barrouallie resident triumphed over naysayers to graduate from Brooklyn College (BC), New York at age 66 to show her nieces and nephews that they “are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.”

Cooke graduated from BC in December, 2022, but the school held its commencement on Friday, June 2 2023, when she received her diploma for having completed a Masters of Science degree in Education with a major in Early Childhood Education.

However, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Cooke said that she wasn’t really furthering her education for herself, as she didn’t have much of a need for the degree.

“…I’m not really going to use it in a sense, probably if I was in my 30s and 40s; but then I said, I will use it to motivate my nieces and nephews that even at an age that they think that everything is gone, they would still do it.”

Cooke said she has many nieces and nephews who she thinks need motivation to excel, and because she knew that she could have done it, she decided to pursue her studies for their sake.

“…They can look at my example and say, ‘well okay, since my auntie can do it, I can do it too,’ added to that, well I actually had time on my hands, I lived alone and so on, so I said, let me just use my time constructively and do something…”.

Nevertheless, though her intentions weren’t centred around her benefit, she admitted how proud she is of herself for doing excellent work.

“Everybody’s excited, especially my brother. He kept calling me everyday, everyday, everyday. You know sometimes with the overwhelming work, and you get a little discouraged, I talked to him and he kept motivating me, [saying] ‘you can do it, just hold on [and] do it”, she said, adding that her nieces and nephews have also encouraged her to keep going, and are now very excited for her achievement.

Cooke said that she wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, it was her willingness to excel in everything that she does that got her to where she is in her educational journey.

“Like everybody else back home, especially in Barrouallie, nobody’s really rich as such, some people are a little more fortunate than others [but] when I went into high school, my aim was to do my very best, to help my mother.”

She explained that her mother always had a desire to have one of her children attend a secondary school in Kingstown, and as Cooke was her last child, she pushed her so that she could attend the St Vincent Girls’ High School.

She said that her mother was so strict that she couldn’t participate in the activities that were happening around her.

“…She believed that you have to do your work, you can’t be playing around…”.

Cooke said that she became one of the first persons from the area who attended the St Vincent Girls’ High School as in the days of her childhood, one must be exceptional to be accepted into the school.

“Those days, they were just taking a few children, probably 90 or so, and I was fortunate to be one of them so that is what pushed me; and every institution I went, my mantra was, I am going to do my best so that if they are offering a scholarship, I would get one.”

Cooke related though, that she has had comments being made by people about her graduating University after retirement. In fact, she said that while pursuing her studies in Antigua, someone made a comment about her wanting to get more marks than the rest of her classmates.

“I said of course. What do you think I came here for? I have my own personal pride at stake, my country at stake, and my future, so of course I want to excel…”.

Still, Cooke is encouraging youths to take their education seriously, be disciplined, and try to do their very best because that will get them very far.

“They may not see it at their age now, but as they get older, they will realize that education or being educated is very, very important.”

She also is encouraging people who are within her age group that they can still succeed in education.

“…Because once I learn, or once we learn, we can teach the younger folks and help them to excel also,” she said, adding that when she returns to St Vincent and the Grenadines she plans to help anyone who needs it at whatever level they are.