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94-year-old woman graduates college with honors

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report.

A 94-year-old woman got a big surprise after earning her bachelor's degree online with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

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Amy Craton, of Honolulu, has been keeping herself busy by taking online classes at Southern New Hampshire University.

Now, Craton is one of the oldest graduates to earn a bachelor's degree in the world.

"I couldn't see just sitting there watching Netflix all the time," she told WPVI.

Craton, who is a great grandmother, first enrolled in college in 1962. She didn't initially finish her collegiate career because she put her education on hold while she worked to raise and support her family. 

Although Craton wasn't able to attend the recent graduation ceremony in person in New Hampshire, SNHU's president, Paul LeBlanc, hand-delivered Craton's Creative Writing and English degree on a special trip to Hawaii. LeBlanc even surprised her with a party.

"Amy is an extraordinary student. At the age of 94, she earned a degree that was 54 years in the making and with a 4.0 GPA no less," LeBlanc said. "Amy is the epitome of a lifelong learner, and my hope is that her story will remind others that it's never too late to follow their dreams or learn something new. The entire SNHU community could not be more proud of her accomplishment."

"It feels good to graduate, but in many ways I feel I am still on the road," Craton said. "I have more to learn."

Craton said she plans to get her Master's degree next.

"I'm trying to live my life to the fullest," she told WPVI. "You have to live. You have to learn as long as you can. Go to college, go to college. Don't be afraid of it."

Virginia college to build on-campus gun range

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, has announced plans to build a $3 million, state-of-the-art gun range on its campus.

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The university's president, Jerry Falwell, announced the plans Tuesday after the county unanimously approved the proposal. The gun range will sit on a 500-acre plot of campus land and will include a pistol range, three rifle ranges, a police shoot house and skeet and trap shooting.

Falwell discussed the gun range Friday on Fox News' "Fox and Friends."

"We have a mountain on campus, and we thought we'd use it for recreation," Falwell said. "We've been able to avoid a lot of the sexual assault problems that you see at a lot of universities by giving students positive alternatives to keep them busy and to keep them entertained. The shooting range will be part of that."

The gun range won't only be for students at Liberty University but will also be open to members of the community and law enforcement.

The range will be the first National Rifle Association-supported gun range at an American university and the first NCAA-certified outdoor shooting range that can be used for all Olympic shooting sports, according to the university's proposal.

The university hopes to have the range open by Labor Day.

Liberty University Unveils Plan for Outdoor Shooting Complex— SL4GR (@SL4GR) December 8, 2016

Grandmother of 12 earns bachelor's degree at 57

A 57-year-old grandmother of 12 will fulfill one of her dreams Saturday, when she'll graduate from college with a bachelor's degree. 

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The last four years have not been easy for Darlene Pitts, of Norfolk, Virginia.

A hardworking woman in pursuit of higher education, Pitts earned an associate's degree from a community college in December 2011.

The next year, she enrolled in a program at Norfolk State University with the hopes of earning another degree.

During the course of the program, Pitts, who was working two jobs, was placed on academic probation. At one point, she wasn't sure if she'd be able to complete the coursework.

"I came to work in tears because I got a letter saying I was on academic probation,” Pitts told The Virginia-Pilot. "Some of the classes, they were really rough. I was ready to throw in the towel. I just wanted to call it quits, but I just hung in there."

But instead of giving up, Pitts quit her job at a Kroger grocery store and focused on her schoolwork and her job as a special education teaching assistant at a local high school. She started working with a tutor, too.

"It was a rough four years," Pitts said. "But I still hung in there."

This weekend, Pitts will graduate with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She hopes to become a full-time special education teacher, but has no plans to end her career as a student. She wants to get a master's degree in special education.

"I love being in a classroom," she told the Virginia-Pilot. "I love being a student."

Until then, one of her granddaughters is practicing for how she'll cheer for her grandmother at Saturday's ceremony.

"It's a high-pitched scream," Pitts said. "It's a glass-shatterer."

Congrats to future NSU graduate Darlene Pitts. The NSU Commencement Ceremony will be held on Dec. 10. #nsugrad16Posted by Norfolk State University on Monday, December 5, 2016

College professor edits Latina student's essay: 'This is not your language'

A college student said she felt "disrespected and invalidated" when her professor wrote a discriminatory comment while editing an essay the student wrote for class. 

On the paper, she said the professor wrote, "Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste." She also said the professor circled "hence" on the paper and wrote, "This is not your word."

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Suffolk University senior Tiffany Martínez wrote about her experience in a blog post titled "Academia, Love Me Back" on Thursday. She wrote that the professor "challenged (her) intelligence" in front of other students in her class. 

"This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed 'this is not your language,'" Martínez wrote. "On the top of the page (she) wrote in blue ink: 'Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.' ... They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own ... On the second page the professor circled the word 'hence' and wrote in between the typed lines 'This is not your word.'" 

I was hurt badly this morning and publicly humiliated in front of my peers by a professor. They assumed I plagiarized my...Posted by Tiffany Corin Martínez on Thursday, October 27, 2016

Martínez told Buzzfeed News that the professor "spoke loudly enough that students at the back of the room heard and asked if (she) was OK after class."

"I spent the rest of the class going back through every single line, every single citation to make sure that nothing had been plagiarized, even though I knew I hadn't," she told Buzzfeed. 

Martínez, a Latina with aspirations of earning a Ph.D and becoming a college professor, wrote that she has battled stereotypes throughout her academic career. She discussed the disappointment she has felt with consistent assumptions that she is "weak, unintelligent and incapable."

"As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to," she wrote. "In the journey to become a successful student, I swallow the 'momentary' pain from these interactions and set my emotions aside so I can function productively as a student."

After Martínez's post gained attention online, Suffolk University president Marisa Kelly released a statement saying the school "must redouble efforts to create a more inclusive environment."

"Suffolk University is committed to making every member of our community feel welcomed, valued and respected," Kelly wrote. "I take (Martínez's) concern seriously on behalf of the institution as the acting president, and I take it seriously as an individual personally committed to diversity and inclusion."

Kelly also announced that faculty members will go through mandatory microagression training sessions on how to better interact with students.


In her Momentum blog, Acting President Marisa Kelly addresses the University's commitment to making every member of our...Posted by Suffolk University on Tuesday, November 1, 2016

8-year-old admitted to college after inspiring pep talk

An 8-year-old was offered admission into a Texas university after her mother sent the school a video of the girl.

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Jordin Phipps proudly sported a University of North Texas T-shirt while talking to the camera as her mother recorded her. 

"(I'm going to) start my day in a positive way," Phipps said. "I will be respectful with the words I say. I will pay attention, and I will do my best, and I will study hard for every test."

The motivational pep talk was a presentation of a daily message that Phipps and her classmates at Watson Technology Center in Garland, Texas, recite at school.

"I will take advantage of what my teachers have to give. I will become a productive citizen in this world," Phipps said. "I am smart. I am a leader. Failure is not an option for me. Success is only moments away. I have the attitude of a North Texas eagle."

After seeing the video, UNT officials surprised Phipps at an assembly at her school and awarded her a $10,000 Presidential Excellence award, which is normally given to high school seniors. She was also guaranteed a spot in UNT's class of 2030.

Phipps' mother, Nichole Smith, is a University of North Texas alumna.

MEAN GREEN PRIDE: 8-year-old Jordin is our new favorite person.  Her mom just sent us this adorable and inspiring video of her.  We can't wait to have her on campus!Posted by University of North Texas on Friday, September 23, 2016

SCHOLARSHIP WINNER: Congrats to the latest student admitted to UNT, 8-year-old Jordin!  We got to surprise her today at...Posted by University of North Texas on Thursday, September 29, 2016

College freshman receives list of demands from roommate before move-in

As school gears up across the country in August and September, many college freshmen prepare for a significant transition, with many moving away from home for the first time and opportunities to meet lots of new people. 

While some college students choose to live with friends or other people they know, others choose random roommate options and live with people they have never met before. Many parents encourage the choice, saying it's a chance for lifelong friendships to form with unlikely people. 

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One incoming UCLA freshman might not be looking forward to moving in.

The student, identified only as Winnie, posted a photo of an email she received from one of her soon-to-be-roommates. 

The roommate, identified as Ashly, states that she previously sent an email to Winnie and one other girl and makes it clear that she's unhappy that the two hadn't replied to her initial email. 

"Okay, so, I'm not sure why neither of you responded back to my emails," she wrote. "I don’t like being ignored because that's just rude, but that's what you both decided to do, so I decided to make it clear now on the kind of person I am and what I will and will not take."

Ashly then launches into her preferences upon move-in:

"I'll take the top bunk. I DO NOT want the single bunk where it has a desk underneath the top bunk so don't try to leave me that. I'm also taking one of the white closets ... I want the desk that's near the window. Plain and simple. I don't care about who gets the bottom bunk, but just know that what I stated above is what I'm expecting once I arrive at the dorm."

Ashly also said that she wouldn't "be in the mood for any arguing or other nonsense."

"I'm not going to settle for anything less," she wrote, later saying that she was "sorry but not that sorry for the attitude."

The third roommate, Guistinna Tun, replied to Ashly's email the next day, saying she and Winnie were willing to compromise, but didn't appreciate Ashly's tone, Fox News reported.

The news organization said Ashly's response was a little more docile.

"I'm also really chill too, but as you can see from my previous email, I am like a ticking time bomb that sets off when things I don't like happen to me," she wrote.

Winnie wrote on Twitter that she plans to move into the dorm on Thursday.

Here's Ashly's email in full:

"Okay so I’m not sure why neither of you responded back to my emails, but I don’t really care as long as you both know this and understand that I’m not going to settle for anything less than what I’m gonna tell you that I’m gonna get once I arrive in the dorm. I’ll take the top bunk. I DO NOT want the single bunk where it has a desk underneath the top bunk so don’t try to leave me that. I’m also taking one of the white closets. There should be two white closes and I’m taking one of them. I don’t care which one it is, just know I’m taking one of them.

"I want the desk that’s near the window. Plain and simple. I don’t care about who gets the bottom bunk but just know that what I stated above is what I’m expecting once I arrive at the dorm and I won’t be in the mood for any arguing or other nonsense because one of you two decided to deliberately disregard this email. IF needed be I’ll turn it into a bigger situation so don’t try me.

"Sorry but not that sorry for the attitude. I don’t like being ignored because that’s just rude but that’s what you both decided to do so I decided to make it clear now on the kind of person I am and what I will and will not take.

"So as a final reminder: I am getting the top bunk of the bunk bed with the bed on the bottom, I am getting one of the white closes and I’m getting the desk near the window. That’s fair enough to ask considering that I’m giving up fighting for the top bunk."

University of Chicago won't support 'trigger warnings,' 'intellectual safe spaces'

A letter sent out by University of Chicago officials warned incoming students that they won't find any "intellectual safe spaces" on the school's campus.

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The letter goes on to acknowledge that the university is committed to "freedom of inquiry and expression" and encourages each student to challenge and broaden their perspectives on issues.

"You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement," the letter read. "At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

The letter pointed students to more information on freedom of expression and quotes a former president of the university, Hanna Holborn Gray, as saying that "education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think."

The University of Chicago is ranked as one of the top and most selective universities in the country. Less than 8 percent of the more than 31,000 people who applied to enter the class of 2020 were accepted by the school, according to The Chicago Maroon.

'Chewbacca mom,' family awarded full scholarships to attend Florida college

After gaining fame for her viral video, Candace Payne, also known as “Chewbacca mom,” and her family are now being offered free education at a Florida university.

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WFTS reported that Southeastern University, a private Christian liberal arts school in Lakeland, Florida, announced that it would pay full tuition for Payne, her two children and her husband to attend the school. Payne, who was vacationing in Florida with her family this week, visited the school and received a tour from its mascot, Scorch.

“How about I make this the best tour ever?” Kent Ingle, Southeastern University president, said to Payne in the video. “Since you’ve been bringing joy and laughter and great inspiration to a lot of people around the world, here at Southeastern we want to do that for you. Our gift to you is to provide you and your family full, tuition-free scholarships.”

Brian Carroll, the school’s executive vice president, told The Ledger that the visit has generated a lot of interest in the school. “My phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said. “It's crazy. (The video) worked out really well for us and, I think, her. We're going to make good on our word (with the scholarships). Why can't we be (like) Oprah?”

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Payne said in a news release from the school that she was excited for her family. “This is such an amazing gift for our family, I’m blown away,” she said. “I mean, my kids’ college is paid for!”

In a segment of "The Late Late Show with James Corden," she drives Corden to work, with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams in the back seat. She is also set to meet the real Chewbacca. So far, her video has been viewed more than 137 million times, which makes it the most watched Facebook Live video of all time.

Read more at WFTS and The Ledger.

It's the simple joys in life....Posted by Candace Payne on Thursday, May 19, 2016

Malia Obama decides which Ivy League college she'll attend

Malia Obama, 17, will join the Harvard University class of 2021 after taking a gap year, the White House announced Sunday. 

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The decision was made public on May 1, National College Decision Day. 

Harvard accepted 5.2 percent of applicants this year, making this admissions cycle the most selective in its nearly 400-year-long history, The New York Times reported.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama attended Ivy League schools; the president attended Columbia, and the first lady went to Princeton. Both later graduated from Harvard Law School.

“The one thing I’ve been telling my daughters is that I don’t want them to choose a name,” Michelle Obama told Seventeen magazine earlier this year. “I don’t want them to think, ‘Oh, I should go to these top schools.’ We live in a country where there are thousands of amazing universities.”

The teenager visited dozens of schools, including the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Barnard, Tufts, Brown, Yale and Wesleyan. The first lady said in September that the family talked over Malia's college plans "every night." 

It's unclear what Malia, who turns 18 on July 4, will do during her gap year. Most people work or travel during a gap year.

It's also unknown what she'll study, but the eldest Obama daughter has expressed interest in working in television and productions. She spent a day in 2014 working as a production assistant on "Extant," a series produced by Obama donor Steven Speilberg that stars Halle Berry. Last year the teenager interned with the HBO series "Girls."

"Just like her father, she is an avid reader, and she enjoys movies and the whole process," Michelle Obama previously told People magazine. The president has described his eldest daughter as someone who never felt comfortable achieving only average scores and grades. 

Earlier in the year President Obama revealed that he declined an offer to speak at Malia's graduation from Sidwell Friends School in June. 

"I'm going to be wearing dark glasses, and I’m going to cry," he said.

He also spoke about his daughters during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres.

"Both of my daughters are wonderful people. Malia's more than ready to leave but I'm not ready for her to leave," he said. "She's one of my best friends. It's going to be hard for me not to have her around all the time, but she's ready to go. She's just a really smart, capable person and she's ready to make her own way."

The Obamas have said they will stay in Washington, D.C. while their youngest daughter, Sasha, 14, finishes school at Sidwell. The president and his wife still own a home in Chicago.

"Our decision has actually presented a bit of a dilemma because traditionally presidents don't stick around after they're done," Obama said at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. "And it's something that I've been brooding about a little bit."

After his speech, the president presented a humorous video about what he could do after leaving office.

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