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Diploma goes to 71-year-old student during mid-year graduation ceremony

Darryl Murphy

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

More than 100 students from the District’s Opportunity Network received their high school diplomas Wednesday during the annual mid-year graduation ceremony at School of the Future in West Philadelphia.

The students were enrolled in the District’s Educational Options Program, which provides nontraditional alternatives for out-of-school youth, students who are at significant risk of dropping out, students who are subject to disciplinary measures, and adults who have not completed high school.

Students can enroll in EOP at four locations in the city: Benjamin Franklin High School, South Philadelphia High School, and the North and South locations at Philadelphia Learning Academy.

Hope Worthy, the coordinator of Ben Franklin’s EOP, said the program is a “second chance for students.”

Among the graduates was 71-year-old Charlotte Burkett, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, who dropped out of school at age 15 when she had her first child. Burkett had three more children, all of whom graduated high school, with one finishing college.

“My kids came first,” said Burkett. “I worked all my life. I just worked to take care of my children. I wanted to make sure they were comfortable, they graduated, and that was my main thing at the time.”

After seeing another woman in her 70s receive her diploma, Burkett was inspired to do the same and enrolled in the EOP at Benjamin Franklin. Her favorite subject was history, with a specific interest in the story of Schindler’s List, about a man who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust.

Now that she has received her diploma, Burkett said, she has no plans to pursue higher education and is still figuring out what she is going to do with her free time.

“I love traveling,” said Burkett. "[But] I haven’t really decided. This is the main thing I wanted to get, my diploma.”

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