By: Glorinés Ruiz González
For Doña Inés learning how to drive at the age of 65 is not the only thing she has been learning recently.
Obtaining her high school diploma and her associate degree in criminal justice at the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico is just some of the things she has been conquering in her life, later than most people.
“I had 11 brothers and sisters and my parents were a very poor couple; they did not give any emphasis to education instead they needed help around the house. Another issue that pushed me to stop attending school was transportation. We had to walk to and from school and we didn’t receive any help with our homework at home, which forced me to leave school when I was just in the fourth grade,” said the gray- haired lady who has lived all her life in the town of Aguada, Puerto Rico.
She has been married to Baltasar Ruiz, 68, known as “Don Tato”; for 50 years now, who she married at the age of 15. After having three children Inés became a stay at home mom and Don Tato had a little shop in the heart of the town of Aguada. “Since I did not have a proper education, I could not read or write, I did not know how to drive either so I just stayed at home raising my kids and taking care of my family just as a have been doing all my life,” she said.
It was not until her kids were old enough and left the house that she started to crave for something different in her life. The need to learn how to write and read was more evident for her at this point. She remembered when she could not read anything without having someone to do it for her or write for her. In addition, her passion for bolero music pushed her to start craving to write her own music as a past time. “She is a very determined woman and she wanted to finish high school, so I looked up a program for her to get her diploma and took her every day to class from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.,” said her husband while glancing at her with a smile on his face.
“At one point while completing my 11th grade at the same time my youngest granddaughter, Glorinés, was completing her 11th grade as well,” said the old lady jokingly. “If it weren’t for my family’s support I could not have done it, they showed me from the very beginning how proud it made them for me to pursue my education.”
Having finished her high school diploma she bought a laptop computer and began investigating how to extend her knowledge and that’s when she decided to start college to pursue an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. “Since I spent the majority of my time at home, the only thing that I had for entertainment was television and watching news, so this was what intrigued me to pursue the criminal justice program,” she mentioned.
When asked how she was perceived at college being a much older student than the rest she said: “At first people were very intrigued by my presence in classrooms, even professors asked me why I was there; but later on they became very supportive of me and even some of my schoolmates lovingly called me grandma.”
Her daughter, also named Inés, recalled the day of her mothers associate degree graduation. Doña Inés and her granddaughter Marinés graduated at the same time. “It brought me to tears having two of the most important people in my life achieving that step; it was something I would have never anticipated. It made me feel the most proud mother and daughter of the world at the same time,” said her daughter Inés.
While swinging on her hammock, enjoying the afternoon cup of coffee and singing some of her favorite boleros, Doña Inés sang and recited about some of the songs and poems she has written. Writing them is now her “therapy.”
“Even though I’m not in college any more, I still read a lot and would like to continue my bachelor degree studies. But for now my main goal is to learn how to drive so I don’t have to depend on any one anymore. This for me is a little bit challenging due to my age and health issues that I have developed over the time but not even that will stop me from achieving my goals,” Doña Inés concluded.