78-year-old Bainbridge woman tackles nursing school

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 6:49 PM EDT
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BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (WCTV) - Your first semester in college can be a scary time, whether you’re 17 or 78, but a Georgia grandmother says she left those fears in the dust, thinking “I’ll tackle anything!”

Helen Yates King just completed the Certified Nurse’s Aide program at a local technical college.

“It felt awesome! After 60 years of not being in school, I couldn’t believe that happened,” King said.

What happened to Helen, was scoring 98 on her weekly nursing test…in college! That’s right! At the age of 78, Helen became a college coed, studying nursing at South Regional Tech in Bainbridge.

When her son, Guy Yates, heard about his mom getting enrolled in college, he was confused.

“I thought maybe she was taking some cake classes,” he said. But cake decorating was not on the menu.

Helen had not been in a classroom since she graduated high school in 1960.

“I got married in December before I graduated and we started having children,” explained King.

She soon had her hands and her house full caring for her own kids and many of her nieces and nephews. Helen is one of 14 siblings.

Years later, when Helen’s beloved husband battled cancer, she helped take care of him, too, until his passing. Today, decades later, she is still caring for a younger sister on disability.

But lately, “I found myself at home without a lot to do, and I thought, “There’s too many hurting people out there that need somebody to help,”” said King.

King checked out the local college’s nursing program. It just so happened she walked in on the last day of registration and was accepted into the program.

During King’s first days in class, instructor Rhonda Kirkpatrick had some doubts.

“I’m thinking, “this is going to be interesting,” Kirkpatrick recalled. She worried about King’s age and a minor hearing deficit, but King amazed them all, keeping up with every skill.

Kirkpatrick said King performed “better, sometimes than the students did!”

Those skills, like taking blood pressure, were practiced on four unique patients, or medical mannequins, named after the Golden Girls. There is Rose, Blanche, Sophia, and last but not least, Dorothy. Dorothy looks a little scary, like she might not pull through, and King Helen joked hat they’re doing everything they can to make her comfortable.

King is ready to make real patients comfortable, now that she’s earned the title of certified nurse’s aide. Yates said his mom is now a lot more confident.

“She feels she’s accomplished something, and she has!” said Yates.

King is quick to credit others for her success.

“I would not have been able to do this without the help of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said King.

King’s pastor said the church recently held a sweet graduation ceremony, with three, five-year-olds, a high school graduate, “and of course, our 78 year old graduate!”

What would she tell other seniors who are afraid of stepping out?

“They’re not too old. I think it gives you a new lease on life,” said King.

Kirkpatrick is also encouraging older students to reach out.

“We welcome the retired, the ones at home that find themselves empty,” said Kirkpatrick.

WCTV’s Art Myers asked King how much younger she feels now, having been in the program. King laughed and replied, “20 years!”

If you want more information on pursuing nursing or other opportunities, call toll-free at 1-888-205-3449 or go to this website:

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