While helping his son apply to colleges, Freddie Sherrill, 65, heard something that surprised him: You should go to school, too.
As a child in North Carolina, Sherrill had difficulty learning to read and write, and he started to act out. He began skipping school at 8, and while hanging out with teenagers, he tried wine for the first time. Sherrill told The Washington Post that he was a shy child, and he finally "felt like I fit in." He then broke into houses and stole purses, and became addicted to drugs and alcohol.
After several stints in prison and rehab, Sherrill was "tired of hurting everybody around me," he says, and in 1988 he stopped drinking and doing drugs. Sherrill slowly rebuilt his life — he repaired his relationships with his wife and children, took literacy classes so he could learn how to read and write, and eventually, after eight years, he earned an associate's degree. "I spent a lot of time taking chances doing negative things," he said. "It was time for me to start taking chances doing positive things."
When it came time for his son to go to college, he helped him with his paperwork, and the staff at Queens University of Charlotte told Sherrill that he should also consider applying. His son ultimately enrolled at North Carolina A&T University, and Sherrill came up with a challenge: whoever got the best GPA at the end of each semester would give the other $100. His son graduated and is now a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch, and Sherrill, after seven years, received his degree in human service studies earlier this month. "I started a lot of things in my life I didn't finish," he told the Post. "College wasn't going to be one of them."