Maria is a 75-year-old sponsored aging friend from Cartagena, Colombia.
Maria recently decided to go back to school to get her college education — a dream she had chased since her youth.
Because of gender stereotypes, Maria could not achieve her dream until her late 70s.
But with help and encouragement from her family, her sponsor and Unbound, Maria graduated from Pamplona University in Colombia.
Harrison Garcia Ruiz, Unbound communication center liaison in Bogota, Colombia, contributed information to this report.
Since I was a child, I have always wanted to study.
However, it was not possible because when I was a child the culture was different.
Parents did not want [women] going to school because they said women must to stay at home and husbands will sustain the families.
Women at that time just needed to know how to take care of the house, raise children and get ready for a marriage.
For that reason, I had to wait until after I raised my five children and 15 grandchildren to reach my dream of graduating from university.
I joined the sponsorship program five years ago. I knew about Unbound because my grandchildren were also sponsored.
It was a great joy to me because I do not have any income, and the support of my sponsor is a great help to me and my family.
In 1998, after my husband passed away and my children were grown I decided to go back to school.
I said to myself that this was the right time to reach my dreams.
I got into basic school and I attended classes at night.
I was glad when I finished my basic school.
In 2001, I finished high school, but I wanted more.
I love to study and all that I wanted was to keep learning.
I tried to get into Cartagena University to learn literature, but I did not do well in the exams.
After that I heard about Pamplona University, and I signed up to study Spanish and Communication.
I had to walk a long distance to attend to my classes every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
My children supported me in my decision to study at Pamplona.
Studying at university was hard, but my son told me that I had to work hard and I needed to read a lot to do well.
During the weekdays, I did my homework and I did the chores at home to keep everything working well.
All my classmates were respectful because of my age and they helped me a lot.
In December 2011, I graduated from the university and I am very proud of myself.
My classmates say that I am an example to many of them because although I am older, I did well in all my tests and I was able to graduate.
I also received two prizes for personal growth.
Thanks to my sponsor I could have the resources to reach my dreams and to continue with my education.