97-year-old Michigan woman receives high school diploma

97-year-old Margaret Thome Bekema looks at her high school letter as Catholic Central High School principal Greg Deja, left, and Director of Advancement Beth Banta fix her cap shortly after her honorary graduation at Stonebridge Manor on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 in Grand Rapids, Mich.. Bekema began her education at Catholic Central in 1932 but sacrificed completing her degree at that time to take care of her mother who had cancer and her younger siblings. (Emily Rose Bennett/The Grand Rapids Press via AP) ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT (Emily Rose Bennett | MLive.com)

WALKER, Mich. (AP) — A 97-year-old woman has received an honorary diploma from a Michigan high school, eight decades after she was forced to drop out to help her family.

Margaret Thome Bekema finally was able to don a mortarboard and fulfill her lifelong goal in front of her friends and family on Thursday. School administrators from Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids presented her with the diploma at the Yorkshire and Stonebridge Manor senior community in Walker.

Bekema would have graduated with the Class of 1936, but she left during her junior year to care for her three younger siblings because her mother was ill with cancer.

She said leaving school at age 17 broke her heart and she’s thankful for the recognition.

Grand Rapids is about 160 miles northwest of Detroit.

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