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200 adults get high school diplomas in Dohn Community High School's largest-ever class

Posted: 4:30 AM, May 30, 2017
Updated: 2017-05-30 11:45:49-04

CINCINNATI -- Evelyn Hunter is so happy she could turn flips.

On Tuesday night, she'll receive her high school diploma -- 37 years after her original class.

Making the day more special are the people with whom she'll share it: Hunter's daughter and two nieces are graduating with her from Dohn Community High School , class of 2017.

"I used to kinda feel bad, because everybody else was having a high school reunion," Hunter said. "And they were like, 'Evelyn, what year you graduate?' And I say, 'I was supposed to come out in '80.'"

Dohn runs Cincinnati's only 22+ Adult HSD Program , a way for adults earn a high school diploma after they've dropped out. Hunter, now 55, married when she was 18 years old. She left school in the 11th grade because she wanted to stay home with her children, she said.

She also worked as a home health aid and certified nurse assistant; she said she didn't think she'd need a diploma because her work didn't require it.

Then she found out her opportunities became limited.

"I wanted to get into other programs," Hunter said. "Without my high school diploma, I couldn't get in."

Her daughter Tyra, now 33, quit school around the 10th grade. Dohn Superintendent Ramone Davenport saw the family struggle -- and persevere.

"There were plenty of days they wanted to give up, but we stayed on top of them and said, 'Listen, you're going to make it to the finish line,'" Davenport said.

At 200 students, Tuesday will see Dohn's largest graduating class ever. The school has 550 adults enrolled at two locations and plans to open another in Roselawn next year.

"Nobody said that the traditional way was the only way that you can educate people," Davenport said.

The Ohio Department of Education has no minimum number of high school credits to participate in the 22+ Adult HSD Program, but students have to complete it within two years.

Hunter said she and her family weren't ready in December, "but we made sure were were ready for May."

Ohio also offers an Adult Diploma Program . In addition to a diploma, students who enroll in that program earn credentials for certain technical fields.

The state Department of Education estimates there are more than 1 million Ohioans without a diploma. Hunter said she encourages everyone she knows to finish school.

"Just write down one goal," she said. "If it's just your high school diploma, you can do it."

Tuesday's graduation ceremony is at 7 p.m. at Taft Theatre.