The bachelor’s degree didn’t just fall in Darlene Pitts’ lap.
After the Virginian-Pilot chronicled the Norfolk grandmother’s pursuit of a college education in 2011, she had plenty of work to do. And the work almost got the best of her.
Pitts, 57, found herself on academic probation at Norfolk State University. She quit a second job to devote more time to her schoolwork. And she got tutoring.
Now the grandmother of 12 – she’s added four more grandchildren since the Pilot wrote about her five years ago – is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“It was a rough four years,” Pitts said. “But I still hung in there.”
In December 2011, the Pilot wrote about Pitts earning an associate degree from Tidewater Community College. That journey began in 2007, as Pitts overcame low self-esteem and abusive relationships to pursue a college education.
The newspaper reported that Pitts planned to go further and earn a bachelor’s degree.
At the time, she had two jobs, one at a Kroger grocery store and the other as a special education teaching assistant at Granby High School.
Once she started her classes at NSU in 2012, something had to give.
“I came to work; I was in tears because I got a letter saying I was on academic probation,” Pitts said.
So she quit the Kroger job and focused on her schoolwork, and her grades got better.
Academic probation was the low point, no question, but none of the journey was easy. She got up early and stayed up late, stretching her days to get all her work done.
“Some of the classes, they were really rough,” she said. “And I was ready to throw in the towel. Especially the math classes. I just wanted to call it quits, but I just hung in there.”
Pitts, who hopes to become a special education teacher at Granby, Virginia, said she’s discovered one down side to reaching the finish line: Without homework, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She said she looks up her old class notes.
“I love being in a classroom,” she said. “I love being a student.”
It’s no surprise that Pitts wants to pursue a master’s degree in special education from NSU. But she’s going to celebrate her bachelor’s degree first. Her 6-year-old granddaughter has been practicing her celebration shout for the graduation ceremony.
“It’s a high-pitched scream,” Pitts said. “It’s a glass-shatterer.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.