Few understand the saying “better late than never” as well as Lela Babb Burden.
On Tuesday, the 111-year-old was awarded an honorary high school diploma from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia, more than nine decades after she ended her formal education.
Burden, who was born in 1903 when Theodore Roosevelt was president, was raised by her aunt and uncle, according to the Virginia Health Care Association. When she was in fourth grade, schools in her area were temporarily closed due to a flu epidemic, and she never returned.
Burden’s extended family was on hand to see her receive the honor, which came as a surprise to the supercentenarian. Had she enrolled in high school, WVEC reported that Booker T. Washington is the school she would have attended.
“Mrs. Burden has contributed to this community for 111 years,” Samuel T. King, superintendent of schools, said during the graduation ceremony, according to the outlet. “She made sacrifices, but she never relinquished her commitment to lifelong learning. We are privileged to provide her with an honorary high school diploma, symbolizing the vital importance of a free and appropriate public education for all.”
After leaving school, Burden began earning money by babysitting and cleaning homes, before marrying a railroad worker named French Burden.
Burden hasn’t lost her passion for life, WTKR reported that she still reads the newspaper every day, and she voted in the 2012 presidential election.
“I’m not old yet. I’m still a young lady,” Burden told the outlet back in May when she turned 111 years old young.