Bladensburg resident Barbara Givens, 71, hopes to show that you’re never too old to learn something new.
“I feel very strongly that senior people can do more than just play Bingo. Not that there’s anything wrong with Bingo, but we have a lot more that we can contribute,” said Givens, who just earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Maryland University College in May.
Givens is the founder and president of the Seniors Against Stalking and Domestic Violence Support Group, which meets monthly to counsel and empower seniors who have been the victims of domestic violence, providing referrals, mentoring and court accompaniment, as well as food through a partnership with the Washington, D.C.,-based Capitol Area Food Bank.
Givens said she counsels others that you’re never too late to get an education, and arranges graduation ceremonies for seniors in the group who have earned their GEDs or other accreditation.
“For some seniors, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to have a second chance at their dreams,” Givens said.
At the age of 66, Givens earned her Bachelor of Science degree from UMUC in 2010, and now has earned a Master’s Degree in Business Science Management, with a specialty in nonprofit management.
“By going, it gives me the validation to tell other seniors that you can do it too. You can go back to school,” Givens said.
Givens’ daughter, Dawn Lawson, of New Carrollton said her mother has always been active, but has really blossomed in the past few year.
“At each graduation, I’ve seen her shine brighter and become more involved,” Lawson said. “I’m so proud of her and the work she’s doing.”
Annie Varner, 70, pastor at St. Martin De Porres Church in the District, provides counseling services to younger victims of domestic violence. Varner said she met Givens this year and began working with her organization.
“I was very proud to see that what she has been presenting to others, about the importance of getting an education, she is doing herself,” Varner said.
Givens is herself the victim, or victor as she calls it, of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband and stalking at the hands of an ex-boyfriend.
Givens said that at the time she felt most overwhelmed, she was put in touch with the District-based nonprofit Stalking Resource Center. In 2001, she formed her own group.
“I started holding meetings, and others started joining me, and it just kind of grew from there,” Givens said. “We just grew to meet the needs of members and their families.”
Givens said many people don’t realize that seniors too can become victims of domestic violence, from spouses, from their children and from employees of assisted living and senior communities.
“She wants to get the word out, that basically, you’re not alone, and that someone is there to lend a helping hand,” Lawson said.