Kelly Kingman was so close to graduating when she dropped out of high school as a senior in 1985. After some adversity, she slowly began to rebuild her life. The mother of two eventually earned her high school diploma from Burbank Adult School in 2007.

Then she watched as her daughters were placed in their schools’ gifted programs, and witnessed their academic successes, and wondered: Why not me?

“I had always been unsure about myself because of my early life, but I had these two beautiful kids — just off the charts — and through them I discovered my potential,” Kingman recalled.  

Then, in 2021, Kingman received her associate’s degree, earning a 4.0 GPA and graduating summa cum laude from Los Angeles Valley College. She transferred to UCLA through the Transfer Alliance Program. She pursued a degree American literature and culture while studying Indigenous cultural erasure. 

Now, the 55-year-old is about to earn her bachelor’s degree with honors. And she’s planning to continue her education at UCLA this fall, when she will enter the master’s degree program in library and information science.

“I made the absolute right choice in going back to school and choosing UCLA,” Kingman said. “It has been a fantastic learning experience for me, and I am grateful for the many meaningful connections.”

The path wasn’t always easy. While one friend followed her into higher education, another smirked at Kingman’s audacity to think she belonged at UCLA.  

“I’m a symbol of overcoming adversity,” Kingman said. “There are no age limits for education and growth as we live many lives in our lifetime.”

In getting her degree from a University of California campus, Kingman is following in the footsteps of her daughters: One graduated from UCLA in 2021 and the other earned a degree from UC San Diego in 2017.

Kingman earned College Honors and was one of only 10 students from her class year to receive an Ahmanson Undergraduate Research Scholarship.

“I never saw myself at UCLA,” she said. “I remember dropping my daughter off at her dorm at the top of the hill, and looking down at the campus. I looked her in the eyes and said, ‘Gosh, do you realize how lucky you are to have this opportunity?’

“And now, here I am about to graduate. I’m so happy and grateful.”