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The Inspiring Story of the Man Poised To Become CC's Oldest Graduate

carlos rezende
Carlos Rezende (left) with his son, Isaque Rezende

Every student at Cambridge College has a unique story of how they got here and what they hope to do with their learning when they graduate. We're always proud of how hard our students work to get their degrees, and we love to share their accomplishments.

Consider, for instance, the inspiring story of one of the oldest students to grace the halls of Cambridge College: 92-year-old Carlos Rezende.

Carlos Rezende was born in Guinea-Bissau in 1929 to Cape Verdean parents. At that time, both African colonies were under Portuguese rule, as they had been since the 1400s. Growing up in what he describes as a village, Carlos spent his childhood developing his lifelong love of learning. As a boy, he always liked school and he particularly enjoyed reading and writing. Carlos describes the act of reading as "the heart getting what it needs," and Carlos looked for every opportunity to make sure his heart was full.

Following his passion for helping others, Carlos eventually became a community nurse, second class. In this work, he cared for people in the community who were ill, helping them get better and providing the information they needed to keep their families healthy. When asked why he chose this line of work, Carlos says simply, "It feels nice to help when people need it."

Carlos Rezende

Coming to America

By the time Carlos turned 40 in 1969, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau were in the middle of an intensely fought guerilla war against Portugal for their independence. It was against this backdrop that Carlos decided to leave his homeland for a new life in America. Like many Cape Verdeans, Carlos, his wife and many members of her family settled in Dorchester.

In Boston, Carlos no longer worked as a nurse. Instead, he returned to his two major passions: helping others and engaging in the joy of learning. Carlos worked as a paraprofessional in Boston Public Schools. He helped middle schoolers by teaching English as a Second Language, mainly to young people who had recently arrived from Cape Verde. Carlos worked in this role from the late 1970s through the 1990s, guiding a generation of students to value their education.

Back to School

After retiring from Boston Public Schools, Carlos had time to pursue something he had always wanted: a college diploma. In 2009, at the age of 80, he decided to finally achieve his dream. Cambridge College was the ideal place for Carlos and he was surrounded by a diverse group of people who were just as passionate about getting their degrees as he was.

Multidisciplinary Studies was the ideal major for someone with Carlos's wide range of interests. Although he admits to struggling in mathematics at times, Carlos found every course interesting in its own way. "I like to learn and absorb," he says and he worked hard to show his much younger professors and classmates that he was just as capable as they were of contributing to the class.

When asked to name his favorite part about Cambridge College, Carlos doesn't hesitate: "All the gracious people," he says. In particular, he had high praise for Dean James Lee, who was always available to help coordinate solutions and help Carlos navigate coursework and scheduling difficulties. "He comes to my heart," Carlos says of Dean Lee.

What made Carlos work so hard to achieve a college diploma when he could have enjoyed a quiet retirement like other men his age? In addition to Carlos' deep love for learning, he also wanted to make his mother proud.

When Carlos left for the United States, he left behind his whole family, including his beloved mother. Carlos feels a strong pull to return to Cape Verde, diploma in hand, to make sure his mother has received a proper burial and to show that he grew up "to be the son she always deserved."

Though he may never return to the land of his birth, Carlos has undoubtedly already made his mother proud. His work in the community and his educational achievements have certainly earned all of us respect at Cambridge College.

And for future students looking for a bit of inspiration, Carlos has this final bit of advice: "Concentration is necessary." He points out that studying takes time, but it's all worth it when it comes to "reaching for success in life."