Grandma graduates as adult education students earn diplomas

Jul. 01, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

Rebecca Morfin celebrated her high school graduation last week, nearly six decades after most of her former classmates.

"I thank the good Lord who gave me the years to do this," said Morfin, 75, of Ogden. She's heading to Weber State University this fall for her bachelor's degree.

"I may not live long enough to get it finished," said Morfin, addressing her classmates at the Ogden School District Adult Education graduation.

"Yes, you will," the audience shouted back. "You'll do it."

"I have grandkids in college, and I tell them to get their education, and not let it stop them. It's been 57 years since I was in school. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to get to Weber College, and I'm going to do it," Morfin said later at a reception.

The Washington High School program listed 17 students who had earned their General Equivalency Diplomas and 94 who had earned high school diplomas. Morfin's class included students in their teens and 20s, on up through middle age. One graduate walked across the stage with her 10-year-old son. Another held up her diploma and her newborn, for the crowd to see.

"She wanted to finish before her baby was born, and she did," said Sharilyn Gerber, who was lead teacher in the Ogden School District's Adult Education Program. "To culminate it, she walked across the stage with her baby in her arms. She was saying, 'I have now taken steps to make a better life for my baby.'"

Gerber called the day bittersweet, because the Ogden School District has now ended its adult education program. Starting today, the program serving Ogden will be administrated by Weber School District, with community partners located within city limits, to keep class locations close for students. Weber School District, which surrounds Ogden School District, has long run adult education courses out of its own schools, outside Ogden's city limits.

"The potential ahead of us is amazing," said Gerber, who has served as a Weber School Board member since 1999. "We are no longer the hole in the doughnut. I see the strength that can come from a combined, Weber County-inclusive program ... We can be more inclusive with adult education."

Weber School District Superintendent Jeff Stephens said he is pleased with how fast community partnerships have come together, with the city of Ogden, the Ogden Weber Community Action Partnership, and with Your Community Connection.

"We are working with agencies that provide support for families and individuals, and now will bring adult education into that context," Stephens said. "We anticipate our outcomes will improve, because we'll have people at those agencies working with students to help them earn that diploma. ... There's a tremendous sense of optimism that this is going to lift our entire community."


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At Thursday's graduation, Gerber said, some students really wanted the Washington High diploma, issued by their home school district.

"Most were students who dropped out of Ogden, Ben Lomond or Washington high schools anyway," she said. "They wanted an Ogden diploma, so they worked really hard to finish in time."

One was Teresa Anderson, 37, Washington Terrace, escorted across the stage by Brian, 10, one of her twin sons.

"It's wonderful, but sad at the same time," Anderson said of graduation. "I'm going to miss the teachers so much. They were so supportive, and they mean a lot to me."

Anderson said she failed to graduate on time because of learning disabilities diagnosed late and medical problems.

"I want my kids to know how important it is to have an education," she said. "I'm going to take some classes at Weber State."

But first, she'll work to pay some bills and fund basic home repairs, she said. She hopes to find secretarial work.

"I would like people to know whatever their learning capabilities, they can get their high school diploma if they work at it. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your family or your kids. It removes obstacles, and expands your horizons."

Her long-long-term plans for the diploma?

"I'm going to be buried with it," she said with a laugh. "I had to fight to get it."

Gerber said most graduates were women.

"The majority of them dropped out of school to become mothers," she said. "Almost every one of them has a couple kids at home."

Morfin dropped out to raise a family, she said. Now she's a great-grandmother.

"You lose track of time," she said, pausing between near constant requests from classmates for hugs and photos. "This is my lifelong dream. I realized a few years back that if I didn't do it now, I'd never do it."

Morfin plans to study the Bible and criminal justice.

"Education is what our government was founded on," she said. "One of the kids here could become a scientist and cure cancer. You can't do that without education. I'm a graduate, and it makes me feel great."