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After 35 years: A real diploma for a real senior

Managing editor

Karen Glick’s high school graduation was 12 years in the making. Most are. But, hers was different.

Instead of graduating in 1973 with her Scott City High School class, the 54-year-old Florence grandmother of 10 proudly walked across the stage May 17 with seniors of the Marion High School class of 2009.

Glick gave up hope of a high school diploma because she got married after her junior year.

“That was back when schools could say whether pregnant or married girls could attend school,” Glick recalled.

She was not pregnant at the time but recently had married husband, Del. The couple moved from Scott City to Wellington, where she attended school from August until October 1972 until school officials no longer allowed her to attend.

Instead Glick went to work, eventually becoming a certified nurse aide and a certified medication aide. She still yearned for her high school diploma, however.

When she and her husband moved to Hillsboro in 1998, Glick began taking classes through Marion County Learning Center.

“I wanted my high school diploma before any of my grandchildren,” she said with a smile.

Her oldest grandchild is 16.

Times had changed since the last time Glick was in school. The class of 1973 was required to have 17 credit hours. The class of 2009 was required to have 23.

She knew it would have been easier to earn a GED than a high school diploma, but she was in it for the learning not just the piece of paper.

“I knew I could complete the lessons,” she said. “I wanted to do this.”

It was not an easy journey.

Glick was working full-time when she began taking classes at the Hillsboro center.

In 2002, she began experiencing medical problems. Her diaphragm was not expanding. To this day, she continues having respiratory difficulties.

“I can breathe in air but I can’t exhale,” she explained.

Glick believes it to be the onset of muscular dystrophy. Since 2005, she has been unable to work, and receives disability compensation.

Her husband also has had his share of health problems: congestive heart failure and injuries from an automobile accident.

Still, even when she had an infection and was in a hospital, Glick continued her studies. It was that important to her.

Two weeks prior to graduation, Glick was two credits shy for her diploma. Determination again prevailed and she was able to complete the requirements within those two weeks.

When she knew she was going to finish, she wanted to do more than just receive her diploma at the center. She wanted public recognition, particularly from her family.

To accomplish that, USD 408 Board of Education had to give her special permission to walk with the seniors.

Attending graduation was someone special to Glick.

“I was so glad my mother was there to see me do this,” she said.

Glick’s mother and grandmother didn’t finish school, either. They earned their GEDs in 1978, when her grandmother was in her 60s.

Even though she didn’t finish there, Glick returns every five years to Scott City for a school reunion.

“Next year I can tell them I have my diploma,” she said.

As part of her high school studies, Glick picked up a few college credits. She plans to continue her education in college.

“It’s a great feeling to accomplish this but it’s kind of a letdown,” she said. “I feel like I’m leaving family at the learning center.”

Learning center staff have asked Glick to return to the center to inspire other students.

“I believe I earned the right to walk with the seniors,” she said confidently. “Besides, you’re never too old to learn.”

Last modified June 3, 2009

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