July 22, 2024

CSU Alumna Zephna Douglas on Proving You’re Never Too Old to Fulfill Your Dreams

Going to college was always a dream for Zephna “Zephie” Douglas. When life put those dreams on hold, she never lost hope that one day she would be a college graduate. Until then, she put her family’s needs first.

“I always dreamt of going back to college and earning my degree but being a single mother with two children and working 24-hour shifts—and sometimes 48 hours shifts on an ambulance—it just wasn’t my time,” she said. “I was a mother, and my kids came before my dream.”

Since a degree was not yet feasible, Zephie followed in her mother and stepfather’s footsteps and worked in the EMS field.

“I worked in emergency medical services on an ambulance for over 25 years and in safety and emergency management for 15 of those years,” she said. “In 2017, I was offered a position as safety and emergency management director. At the time, my children were young, and it wasn’t time for me to attend college quite yet, so I took numerous FEMA classes in emergency management, homeland security and any safety classes that were available online and in person.”

As time went on, Zephie children grew old enough to attend college themselves, and she passed her dream of going to college along to them.

“Watching my children achieve their success was wonderful a mother, as a parent,” she said. “They were my inspiration for my journey. They both encouraged me to go back to college. It warms my heart to see them as successful adults, and they make me so very proud each and every day.”

Zephie set a new goal for herself and decided now, with the support of her husband, family and friends, it was finally her time.

“I wanted to earn my college degree before I turned 50,” she said. “My children are both successful and I decided that now was my time. I wanted more for myself, and if I wanted to achieve my workplace goal, I needed to earn that degree.”

In early 2022, Zephie started pursuing an associate degree in occupational safety and health at Columbia Southern University. Although the excitement of a dream began, it was soon accompanied by life’s hurdles one after another.

“My journey began after a COVID-19 diagnosis that gave me a permanent heart condition,” she said. “I now have to take heart medication for the rest of my life. My husband and I also sold our home and purchased another and remodeled it one month after I started school, so earning that first degree was no easy task.”

In December of 2022 Zephie earned her degree. It was not long after that, she began a career as a preparedness officer for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“I was hired one month after receiving my degree by a company that I had dreamed of working for, a goal that I had set for myself 15 years ago, and I was finally a college graduate at 50,” she said. “It was very emotional to receive that phone call. I literally hung up the phone and cried for almost an hour in disbelief. It was a proud moment for me.”

Zephie realized her journey wasn’t over just yet. In 2023, she re-enrolled at CSU to work on her bachelor’s degree in information systems and cyber security, concentrating in homeland security. Currently pursuing her second degree, Zephie encourages everyone to never let your age define what you can do, and never let your dream go.

“I was a one of those kids in high school who did just enough to get out, but I was capable of so much more,” she said. “I maintained a high GPA at CSU. I received an email from the National Honor Society and that was so mind blowing that I was actually an honor student. I am currently on the dean’s list.”

“Never let anyone tell you that you’re too old, that you’re not good enough or that you can’t do it, because if I can, you can too. Don’t let your dream of earning your degree be just a dream any longer.”

Disclaimer: These testimonials may not reflect the experience of all CSU students.
Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes.
CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.



  1. Lateisha Zondo Turner

    Congrats Zephie. I’m 43 and had put my family first as well. I was able to obtain my first degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography while pregnant with twins and other little ones at home. I stopped working for the Department of Homeland Security to start that journey them life the obstacles my way and want able to find a job in that field until last year from 2012. I then decided to get my BS in Cybersecurity in 2020 when cocos got and was furloughed. Of course life decided to throw a monkey wrench my way by taking important ppl out of my life for to covid one at a time making it difficult to vociferous on my degree. I dropped from 4.0 to 2.9 but brought it up to 3.4 in time for CSU to get me on the honor roll. I was a point shy of my dream being Cumelade but most importantly I’ve accomplished my goal. I’m considering my Masters @ CSU before 50. Ty for the affirmation and confirmation.

  2. Mrs. Ericka Atkinson

    I’m so excited to be graduating with my associates and my bachelor’s degree after putting it off for so many years. Even though I am 58 I finally did it. I put my family first and myself second. I promised my mother that I would go back and finish my education. My mother passed away but I managed to keep my promise to her. In spite of life I still did it.

    1. Tony Anthony Crowded

      To everyone as I read your comments I am not a female and I don’t know if I am out of line for sharing , but ladies you helped me it is truly a word of conformation for me. Hi my name is Anthony a 62 year old male, I’m currently enrolled now at CSU. I am back in school because I am facing some of those challenges today, my mother passed lately and I made a promise to her on completing my education before her death, but as each of you have said life happens. I struggle just this last term, due to illness from Covid. My grades has dropped from a 3:50 to a 2:80, as I was allowing my self to go back down that rabbit hole I was led to read story after story of each of your great accomplishments , thanks for staying in the fight and for your words of encouragement . So today I chose to stay in the fight and one day soon I will be a graduate and Knight from Columbia Southern University. Thanks to each and every last one of you for encouraging me even though you don’t know me , your words inspired me to climb out of my hole and keep up the “Good Fight” and to honor my Late Great Mother with this Degree one day soon. Thanks Ladies Knights, I do so honor each of you.

  3. Jenneice White

    Congratulations Zephie! It is never too late to complete our goals and dreams. I am 59 and I am finishing up my last class at CSU and will graduate in June with a BS in Healthcare Administration. A long time coming and I am so excited about my accomplishment and I am on the Dean’s list while working a full-time job. Best of luck with all your future endeavors!

  4. Willard Nelson

    As I read about the people who had not given up on achieving their goal of completing their degree and how inspiring that could be for others, I thought perhaps my goal achievement might also help inspire others as well. Initially my first enrollment in college was in 1960. Since then life decisions and various circumstances took me away from completing my education, but I never let go of my desire to finish and get a degree. Then seven years ago I went back to get my degree in earnest. Columbia Southern allowed me to take courses online and take them one at a time. While I continued to work full-time and meet my family responsibilities, for those seven years I did just that. One course at a time. Then two weeks after my 79th birthday I received my Occupational Safety and Health bachelors degree. I was so pleased with finally finishing that I didn’t notice I had graduated magna cum laude. My nephew had to tell me. I qualified to meet Graduate Safety Professional designation and am now working to become a Certified Safety Professional. Never give up, never quit. You can reach your goals.

  5. Sandi McKamey

    Congratulations! I agree – never give up or think you are too old. Life happens, but don’t let it stop you. I was 61 when I completed my BS in Business Administration and Human Resource Management – Magna Cum Laude!