At 71-years-old, Leroy Harley graduated with a master’s in teaching from the University of South Carolina (USC). Enamored with all things new, Harley decided to pursue a path toward education as a new career choice.

“I really am proud of myself. I mean, I have to be,” Harley told 11alive News.

“Anything that was new and interesting, I became interested in it,” Harley said.

After years of relocating, Harley returned to Bowman, South Carolina, to spend time with his mother. During their time together, Harley’s mother suggested he should look into working at the town’s school, so he applied to Bethune-Bowman Elementary School, where he was hired as a teacher’s aide before enrolling at USC.

“I immediately got interested in teaching. Like, I say, if it’s something new, I am going to try it and see where it takes me,” Harley said.

His interest in education pushed Harley to overcome the doubts stirring inside.

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“I thought, ‘Why am I going back to school at this age? I should be sorta coasting into retirement,” he said. “But I went on and did it anyhow.”

Harley made his goal possible despite his age through hard work and family support, specifically from his sister, Patsy Rhett.

“I am elated at the fact that Lee, after all these years, decided to follow his heart,” Rhett said. “He has. Education has always been a strong part of his life.”

Harley has advice for those afraid of moving from one career path to another.

“I say go ahead and do it, I mean, because … you bring a lot to the table, OK?” Harley said. “There’s a lot you have to learn at the table, but you bring a lot to the table.”

Harley plans on teaching for the next few years and hasn’t thought of a retirement plan yet