- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Some people fear growing old, but to Ana Reynales, 82, aging is simply mind over matter.

The Arlington County resident does not fret over the fact that she is a senior citizen. She has been keeping herself busy as a full-time student at George Mason University and will graduate Saturday with an undergraduate degree in Spanish.

Mrs. Reynales came to the United States in 1989 from Colombia and spoke no English.

She studied the language at a local community college and accumulated several associate degrees.

Because she does not drive, her commute from Arlington to the Fairfax campus of George Mason two days per week is by bus and taxi. Her round trip can take up to three hours.

Mrs. Reynales is energetic, enthusiastic and serious about meeting her goals. “Education is really important,” she said.

She said she is not intimidated about attending classes with younger students. “I am not afraid of anything. The younger people are helpful. They are good people,” Mrs. Reynales said.

She is critical of her own English-speaking capabilities. “I had to learn grammar. I had to learn your language,” she said. She said she frequently listens to CDs laden with basic English. Mrs. Reynales explains she has had to study in three ways - the language, the speech and the pronunciation. “If I have to talk to any president of any country, I am able. If I have good English and good manners, I am able to share the table with them,” she said. “I put in practice the things I learn.”

Mrs. Reynales has been married 50 years and said she would marry the same man again. She said her husband is proud that she is getting her degree and tells others about her pursuits.

She does not intend to end her education with her bachelor’s degree. She plans to pursue a master’s degree, and her ultimate goal is to teach English.

“I want to help illiterate people,” she said. “I am ready to teach people to speak easily.”

She revealed the secret to her vibrancy in spirit and her determination: “My confidence. I am sure about myself.”

c Karen L. Bune, a consultant with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime and Office of Juvenile Justice programs, is an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Marymount University.

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