In June 2017, Leona Paulus reached two milestones; she turned 96 years old and she earned her high school equivalency diploma.
Born in a time when education for girls was not considered a necessity, Leona, a Pittsgrove, New Jersey resident, was forced to quit school when she was 13 years old. She always dreamed of one day earning her high school diploma, but the timing just never seemed right. Then, when she crossed paths with Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center, she saw the opportunity to make her education dream come true.
A participant in the senior Congregate Nutrition Program offered by the Salem County Office on Aging Department and administered by Mid-Atlantic States, Leona, known affectionately as “Auntie Lee,” recounted her story to Glen Donelson, President and CEO of Mid-Atlantic. Through his encouragement and little bit of prodding, (since some of Leona’s friends tried to discourage her), she enrolled in the GRAD Program at Mid-Atlantic.
Over the next several months, she reviewed preparation materials, particularly those supplied by the on-line education company Edmentum, and scheduled one-on-one tutoring sessions with Mid-Atlantic staffers. Because she is not comfortable with working a computer, Leona took the paper version of the HiSet exam offered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) with the approval of the New Jersey Department of Education. Leona passed her test with college-ready scores.
Leona celebrated her accomplishment in front of her family and friends at a graduation ceremony on Aug. 1 2017 at the Elmer Grange Hall in Upper Pittsgrove Township. She walked down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstances donned in a cap and gown of green – the colors of Arthur P. Schalick High School, where she would have graduated nearly eight decades before.
Leona said that the main reason she decided to take the High School Equivalency Test (HiSet) through ETS was because she wanted to be an inspiration to young people, to encourage them never to give up.
Leona herself is a wonderful, determined woman who has demonstrated to us all that age is just a number and that dreams never have to go unfulfilled.
For more information on Mid-Atlantic’s GRAD Program, call 856-514-2200 Ext. 115.