A 99-year-old graduate of Winston-Salem State University finally got her chance to shine and walk across the stage to accept her degree in person during a commencement ceremony.
Johnson served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army during World War II. She was a member of the 6888th Regiment, the only all-female, all-African American regiment that was stationed abroad during the war, the news station notes. She was stationed in Kentucky, England, and France during her military career, driving trucks and working at military post offices abroad.
After the war, she enrolled in what is now known as Winston-Salem State University, becoming the first woman to enroll there on the GI Bill. She graduated with a degree in education in August 1949, however, because she was working as a teacher, she was unable to attend her graduation and received her degree in the mail.
Johnson would go on to teach in public schools in Virginia and North Carolina for more than three decades.
So you can only imagine Johnson’s surprise when she was invited to walk across the stage at the university’s commencement ceremony this year. Something that was made even more special as she recently celebrated her 99th birthday the week prior.
“I was excited. I can’t explain how excited I really was,” Johnson told the news station. “I’m just so excited about everything that’s happening. I can’t really believe it’s happening.”
Johnson also revealed why she chose to become a teacher, which was to help as many people as possible.
“I felt like teaching school, I could reach more people who would listen to me than if I tried to choose a job among adults,” she explained. “I just decided I wanted to do something more than I saw most of the people around me do and I wanted to do something to help other people so I felt like teaching school was my best choice.”