Tyra Muhammad graduated from college nearly 30 years after she started her undergraduate studies.
The 46-year-old mother of five graduated last month from Grambling State University, which she attended at the same time as three of her five children.
“I had the thought of, ‘I’m too old to do this. I’m too old to go back to school and be back on campus,’ but my kids encouraged me and were there for me,” Muhammad told “Good Morning America,” adding with a laugh, “People at times would think we were all siblings [on campus] together, so I appreciated that.”
Muhammad, an English major, first entered Grambling State as a freshman in 1994.
She met her husband in school and the two married at the end of Muhammad’s freshman year, when she was 19. The couple soon started their family and Muhammad paused her college career when she became pregnant and it was too hard physically to stay in school.
Muhammad would go to become a certified nursing assistant and tried a few times to restart at Grambling State but said her studies always took second place to motherhood and she never finished her degree.
“I kind of put myself on the back burner, which is generally what most mothers and women do,” she said.MORE: 15-year-old to graduate with a high school diploma and college degree in same week
Muhammad and her husband later divorced and by 2018, with her youngest child now a teenager, she was ready to go back to college. She re-enrolled at Grambling State, where three of her children were already enrolled.
“I sat my children down and talked to them and asked them if it’d be awkward if I attended at the same time and they said no,” recalled Muhammad. “I always wanted my degree and also wanted to be an example to my children in terms of the importance of education.”
Muhammad, whose children are now ages 15, 19, 22, 23 and 26, said the family got positive attention on campus because they would so often be seen together. She had at least one class with one of her children and enjoyed doing campus activities and study sessions with the others.
“It was a fun time,” she said. “I really, really enjoyed my time in school with my children.”
Muhammad’s son Elijah, 22, said he and his siblings also enjoyed the rare chance to attend college with their mom.
“It was fun for me,” said Elijah, who is studying business management and marketing. “Every parent is curious as to what their child is doing on campus and she got to see what I was doing and what I was involved with. Our schedules were different but we would see each other quite often.”
The Muhammad family will continue to be well-known at Grambling State because four of the family members will be returning to campus.MORE: Taylor Swift donates over $30K to help student pay college tuition
Muhammad, who hopes to be a teacher, and her daughter are going back to school for graduate degrees, Elijah plans to continue his studies for a degree in marketing and another sibling is an undergraduate student.
“It’s a blessing because it makes me feel like, okay, I did something right,” said Muhammad, who said she always stressed the importance of education to her kids. “To see them strive and do well and to want to go back and continue on is an amazing feeling.”
Muhammad said she hopes her story shows other people that any dream is attainable, even if it takes nearly 30 years to achieve.
“Perseverance is so important,” she said. “Even if it’s not going back to school, if you have a goal to attain, just do it.”