Commencement 2016: URI student returns to college after long absence to earn her degree

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KINGSTON, R.I., May 6, 2016—When Jo-Anne Serydynski walks across the stage at the University of Rhode Island this spring to get her diploma, her 84-year-old mother will be in the audience cheering.


Serydynski will be the first in her family to graduate from college—and she’s doing it at an age when many people are thinking about winding down their careers.


The 54-year-old Hopkinton resident achieved the milestone thanks to URI’s Finish What You Started, a program that helps older students return to college to finish their degrees.


“I will tell you it feels really good to succeed—finally,” says Serydynski, who is majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. “I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.”


Raised in Warwick, Serydynski graduated from Pilgrim High School in 1980 and then enrolled at URI that year. Her first weeks were tough. She was homesick and disoriented, even unaware that she could eat for free in the college cafeteria. Classes didn’t interest her.


“I really didn’t do that great in classes,” she says. “So I dropped out my sophomore year.”