Cancer survivor starts UNCG at 50, later crowned homecoming royalty

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The crowd erupted with cheers when her name was called.

Vickie Whitt, 56, was named one of the winners on UNC Greensboro’s 2019 Homecoming Royal Court.

Whitt danced in celebration with her classmates who are proud to call her a friend despite her being twice their age.

“The great part about it is, nobody looks at me as this old lady. I’m a student just like everybody else,” she said.

Whitt is a breast cancer survivor.

Beginning in 2014, she went through chemo, two blood transfusions and multiple surgeries including a double mastectomy and reconstruction.

“After that, I said I’m going to do all the things that I never did before. I decided I’m going to go to college,” she said.

She became a student at UNCG when she was 50.

Whitt says all she had was a composition notebook from a dollar store and a five-cent pencil.

“When I walked in the room, everyone had a laptop. I didn’t know how to upload, download. I didn’t know nothing about Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, I didn’t know any of those things,” Whitt said.

“I was going to walk out and my brother sent me that text and said ‘Keep going. Go back in there. That’s your school. You own that school. You’re a student just like everyone else.’”

She has embraced the full student experience ever since and attends sporting and social events.

“They want me in the lunchroom. They want me at their tables. They invite me to things,” she said.

Whitt also works a part-time job at the Information Desk in the Elliott University Center.

She’s affectionately called “Grandma V” on campus.

Whitt has a grandchild who is 7 and children who are 16 and 26 years old.

She says there was a time she used to wish she’d attended school when she was 19 or 20, but now believes she belongs on campus at this time in her life.

“That’s my job, that’s my purpose is to uplift to enlighten people and to let them know things happen and they’re terrible, but just keep smiling, don’t give up, just keep trying and pushing and doors are open,” she said.

Whitt also experienced studying abroad in Costa Rica.

Outside of school, she is a mentor to newly diagnosed cancer patients.

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