Corydon woman achieves graduation goal
Graduation ceremonies the past several weeks have marked milestones of students advancing to the next grade, completing high school or earning a college degree.
One Corydon woman achieved a decades-long goal: earning her high school diploma.
Juanita Gresham, now 71, was one of two students to receive their high school diploma June 2 during graduation at Shiloh Christian School south of Corydon.
Juanita, who also was an A Honor Roll student and received the Excellent Student award, had dropped out of school after her sophomore year at Corydon Central High School.
‘I didn’t intend to quit school,’ she said.
But, she married her high school sweetheart, Larry Gresham, on June 1, 1962, just after he earned his diploma from CCHS. After they had been married for a while, the couple had four children, delaying any chance of Juanita finishing high school. She considered earning her GED but family life, including grandchildren and caring for her mother-in-law, became her priority.
However, earning her high school diploma was something she always looked forward to doing.
When Juanita would mention to her husband that she’d like a part-time job, Larry would tell her that she likely wouldn’t be hired because she didn’t have a high school diploma.
Then, last year, Juanita went to Shiloh Christian School and talked to the principal, Brother Goodman, about possibly earning her degree.
‘I didn’t feel under as much pressure,’ Juanita said of the decision to return to school.
Both Larry and the principal supported her decision, but the men were sworn to secrecy.
No one else at the school nor the Greshams’ children and grandchildren knew Juanita was doing coursework, which included health, P.E., English, government/history and math. She also had to write five book reports.
‘I told her to go for it,’ Larry said of his wife’s decision. ‘I’m proud of her.’
Juanita said she read and studied at home, mostly in the evenings and Sunday afternoons when she wasn’t interrupted as much, and took tests at the school.
As graduation neared, the principal had to share with the staff member who orders the caps and gowns that one more set was needed.
Juanita also shared the news with family and close friends, inviting them to the awards program on June 1, which was the Greshams’ 55th wedding anniversary, and to graduation the following evening, where she had to speak.
Besides thanking her family and principal for their encouragement and support, Juanita told the other students to ‘work hard at your studies and stay with it until you graduate. It’s worth all the work and time.’
She also thanked God ‘for giving me the mental ability and strength through this year. For giving me a school and teacher who cared enough to keep me encouraged so I could have this day.’
Juanita said, ‘I know we don’t always get our dreams but tonight you gave me mine … ‘
Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of South Harrison Community School Corp., wrote to Juanita, ‘ … I would like to commend you for this accomplishment. You serve as an example for young people today as they evaluate the worth of their education by reaching an important educational goal by hard work and perseverance.’
Juanita said it was a ‘good feeling of accomplishment’ to earn her diploma.
While she encourages all students to stay in school, she said, ‘If the only way you can get a diploma is by a GED, then do it. … The feeling of graduating with classmates is awesome and a memory you will always have with you.’
Although Juanita had longed to graduate from CCHS, she was able to get a black-and-gold tassel.
Now, with her diploma in hand, Juanita has a new goal: a part-time job. She said working at the soon-to-open White House Candy Co. just down the street from her home sounds ideal.