She decided not to let setbacks get in her way.
“One of the things I wanted to do is be an inspiration for others,” Clara Chase said.
Chase, who turns 71 in September, will graduate from Long Beach City College on June 9. The double amputee is wheelchair-bound from late onset diabetes and has other health issues, she said.
“You must remember you have to keep on living,” Chase said. “You have to keep your body moving. I told myself, ‘I have to plan on what I’m going to do to get it done.’”
Chase will receive her associate’s degree in human development this year. Her first associate’s in food service was from El Camino College in 1983. She said she started that coursework at LBCC, but it didn’t offer the degree, so she transferred. While in school, she had many jobs, including managing a senior high school cafeteria in Compton, but had to retire after 30 years because of poor health.
She said she returned to LBCC in 2010, after losing both legs.
“I needed physical therapy,” Chase said. “And then I got into the human services program.”
The coursework aligns with her love of helping people, she said, which makes her feel good.
“I’ve always had a heart for children and older adults,” Chase said. “I’ve adopted everything from babies to grandparents.”
She was married for 50 years and never had any children, she said, but has too many godchildren to list. When they call asking her for advice or if she needs anything, she said she tells them no. She wants them to learn to be self-sufficient, among other things, she said.
“I tell them, ‘I want you to be able to say I was a good influence all of these years,” Chase said.
Chase said she could have graduated from LBCC earlier, but was enjoying it too much.
“I figured, ‘Why rush the thing?’” Chase said. “I started taking all kinds of classes.”
She said she finally applied for a certificate in 2014, an associate’s soon thereafter and plans to continue her education.
“I decided last year to transfer to California State University, Long Beach,” Chase said. “I didn’t apply to any other college.”
Chase said she’ll pursue a bachelor’s in human development one way or another: If CSULB doesn’t accept her, she said she’d figure out how to keep learning.
“I’ll stay here until they kick me out,” Chase said.
She said she has a couple of classes to finish at LBCC, but those would be done within the next few weeks.
Although Chase lives independently, she said people from Independence at Home, SCAN’s community service division, visit when she needs a little help. The organization also helped her get a power wheelchair, transportation and other items, service’s communications specialist Lyndsey Schaefer said.
The people there are impressed with Chase.
“I think it’s really amazing,” Schaefer said. “It’s hard to go to school at any age. And it’s easy to harp on things that go wrong.”
But she doesn’t focus on the bad, Schaefer said. Besides school, Chase participates in activities, including the Red Hat Society, reading to children in the library and events at the Senior Citizens Center.
Her participation is to keep her mind active, she said, and when she’s sedentary, it’s not in front of a screen.
“TVs not good for you,” Chase said. “I like looking at National Geographic and stuff like that.”
Perhaps decisions like that allow Chase to earn that second associate’s degree, she said.
Emily Thornton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.