87-year-old Bay Ridgeite receives college degree

A lifelong Bay Ridgeite has become an inspiration, teaching everyone that it’s never too late to accomplish your goals, regardless of age. Eighty-seven-year-old Rose Zrake, who has always called Bay Ridge home, celebrated receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree at the College of Staten Island (CSI) during a graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 28.

Zrake considers graduating from college a dream that began decades ago. “I had been going to school off and on taking different classes,” she said. “In 1982, I received my associate’s degree. I decided a few years ago that it would be nice to go back to college.”

During her hiatus from education, Zrake got married and raised five children. She also worked at Fort Hamilton High School for nearly 20 years. During her time off, Zrake enjoyed life.

“When I retired, I did a lot of social things. I went on cruises and to the theater with friends for many years. Then one day, I decided I needed more than that,” she said.

Three years ago, she realized she wanted to continue her education. Determined, Zrake went to CSI to show her past records. She was immediately accepted into the college. Although she had several choices regarding what to study, such as psychology, Zrake decided that she wanted to study English literature. “I love the arts and I’ve always been an avid reader,” she said. “[For class], I read things I never read before.”

Zrake admits that the effort took dedication. “I worked hard during the classes and I was grateful that I did it.” She said. “Everyone at school helped me.”

With the help of Access-A-Ride, Zrake attended all her classes, making a significant impact on students and professors alike. “That was a wonderful experience,” she told this paper. “At first, I was in awe of the young kids that were as old as my grandchildren. It was such an interesting experience. I learned a lot. The professor said the students gained a lot from me. One of them wrote to me that the class was grateful to have me, but I was grateful to be there.”

This past January, Zrake received all her credits required to graduate. “I was so excited. I always thought education was an important and wonderful thing. I promoted it in my children.”

However, her family encouraged her to attend the graduation ceremony, and Zrake is glad that she did. “It was the best day of my life. I can’t tell you I’ve had a more exciting day. It was a beautiful ceremony.”

Zrake received special recognition when the president of CSI first asked how many people graduation are 25 and younger. He then asked those were graduating were ages 26-86 to stand up. He then acknowledged that there was one student that was graduating at the age of 87. Zrake received a standing ovation from both the graduating class and the audience.

“For one day, I felt like a movie star,” she said.

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