LAKELAND, Fla. - Southeastern University just graduated more than 400 members of the class of 2021. Most are 20-somethings – except Mark Macri. He is one ecstatic 52-year-old college graduate.
"I believed it would never happen," he told FOX 13 before the graduation ceremony on Friday.
He finally got his diploma – 30 years after he first enrolled back in 1990 along with other kids his age.
But life got in the way and he had to leave before getting his degree.
He got married, got a job, and had a daughter.
For years, he yearned to finish his degree but thought it was just a pipe dream. Recently, he got a wake-up call.
"When my father passed, I had this thought. Time is getting short. I need to do this!" he said.
Mark Macri graduated from Southeastern University 30 years after first enrolling
So he re-enrolled at his alma mater.
Last year, Southeastern figured out that there are a lot of people like Mark, so they launched a program called Finish Line, which streamlines the application process and helps returning students get back to the classroom.
So far, Finish Line has helped more than three dozen returning students make it over the finish line and get their diplomas. Another 60 are in the program now.
"I think being older makes you appreciate things like this opportunity that you never thought was possible," said Mark’s wife, Alissa.
Mark now plans to get his master's degree and become a teacher.