This is the speech I gave after I wised up and knew I could no longer put off going back to school and getting a diploma, this was in 1986 and I was 35 years old.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to tell you about a young teenage girl.– The setting is the main office at Ogden High School on a warm spring day. The scene opens. The girl is standing at the secretary’s desk: “I’d like to see the principle”, she says. “He’s busy”, the secretary answers. “I don’t care if he is busy, I want to see him NOW!” The secretary leaves the room and the girl thinks to herself, “I don’t need a diploma to get a job and I’m really getting tired of everyone telling me what to do. Besides I have better things to do than sit in a stuffy old classroom learning about the Russian Revolution and dissecting Louisiana bullfrogs.”
Cut and fade to the principle’s office. The girl is sitting across from the principle. “What can I do for you?” he asks. “I want to drop out of school,” she replies. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”–”Yes”. Nothing else is said. Just an uneasy silence and the rustling of the termination papers being prepared. Standing up he hands them to her and tells her “Good luck.” So 16 years ago, May 18, 1970, 2 weeks before graduation the girl dropped out of high school. This scene has probably been repeated millions of times all over the world with one significant variation, I was that young woman.—–
I remember shortly after that, riding with a girlfriend to Rapid City S.D. But after 30 days of bumming around and no clear cut goal materializing I decided to head home to Utah. I thumbed my way as far as Craig, Co. where I met some men in a hotel lobby. After I explained my situation to them they offered to take me with them the rest of the way. I didn’t know what these good samaritans had planned for me until a stranger came to my room and told me that he had overheard their conversation and that they were going to rape and kill me a few miles outside of town. This stranger had saved my life—twice—literally. Once that night and one week later when he asked me to marry him. Now I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about my high school diploma, for I had met my prince in shining armour, he would provide everything I needed. Three years later as I was performing my dutiful housewife role, cooking, cleaning, and basically caring for my working husband, our first child was born. Then in April of 1976 our second child arrived. I thought I would be happy and secure forever, but in April of 1977 my fairy tale existence shattered like a broken piece of glass. My prince had a heart attack and required open heart surgery. He recovered quickly but the Dr. said no heavy work, which meant he could never again do the job he was trained for.
Suddenly I was the bread winner. But who is going to hire a 25 year old high school drop-out and pay her well enough to support a family? Needless to say we ended up on welfare, a fact I’m not proud of.
In the fall of 1978 I returned to school to study office occupations. After six months my counselor placed me into a job which I was under qualified for and it didn’t work. I was hurt, frustrated,and angry at the system and in that mood we left for Texas. My husband eventually found work, but we were not happy living in tornado alley.
Eleven months later we were back in Craig, Co. My husband found employment as a detox counselor right away and after the arrival of our third child I found employment at the local hospital as a Nurse Aide for $5.25 an hour. I had taken training a few years earlier and finally my education seemed to be paying off. I worked this time not out of necessity but because I wanted to. I thought I was pretty lucky. Everyone was in good health, we had good jobs, 3 beautiful children, and were buying a home. Nothing could go wrong, right? WRONG!!!!
In 1982 my husband again had surgery. He was recovering nicely, but 3 days later he suddenly required emergency surgery and then was taken to I.C.U. Due to respiratory failure. I remember seeing him there, knowing that my future and my children’s futures were locked into all the tubes and his unconsciousness.
Eventually he got better and came home but things have never been the same. He tried to go back to work but, because of his illness his employer let him go. I continued working as a Nurse Aide until one year later I found myself pregnant again and was forced to quit my job. It was back to welfare. In December of 1983 our fourth and final child was born and 2 months later we came back to Utah.
By this time I had experienced all of life’s frustrations and disappointments. I had finally grown up and learned that life is no Grimm s fairy tale; there are no princes in shining armour to protect you from the world. There is no guaranteed free lunch. I realized I had to come back to school because a person can’t depend on someone else his whole life. And also employers figure that if a person doesn’t have enough gumption or initiative to do a good job for himself by completing high school, then that person probably will not perform well for them. So the uneducated person is always left out in the cold. I have been through the don’t call us we’ll call you routine several times and this is what motivated me the most. I was tired of feeling like a failure.
So here I am tonight, standing before all of you, 16 years later, with a sick husband, 4 beautiful children, inexperienced in the breadwinner role, and at the same time experienced in life, but the most important fact of all is I now have a High School Diploma. I thought I would never get this far, but I have my family to thank for their encouragement and patience, and for giving me some motivation to pursue my dreams.
I think the biggest thank-you should go to the Weber County School District for having a program like second chance high school. I would also like to give a big thanks to the teachers for if it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t be here now. Again I thank all of you and this comes from my heart. Before I close I would like to recite a poem I wrote:
The graduates are going forth–
God bless them every one!-
To run this hard and stubborn world
Just as it should be run;
But much I fear they’ll find that facts
Don’t always track with dreams;
And running this old world is not
As easy as it seems.
The graduate is prone to think
His wisdom is complete.
He’s but to ask – the world will lay
It’s trophies at his feet.
But school-days done and work begun,
He learns to his regret
The college of experience
He has not mastered yet.
The world has garlands and applause
At graduating time;
But may forget him the next day,
When he attempts to climb.
Life is a battle where each one
Must seek and hold his own.
He who would rise above the clouds
Must scale the heights alone.
This is the rule of life to-day,
As it has ever been:
The world bestows its smiles on those
Who have the strength to win.
Beneath all outward semblances
It looks for merit true.
It little cares how much you know,
But asks,– what can you do?
I may decide to use this as a basis to start a book about my life, God knows I have been through so much and feel the need to write about it before I can no longer remember……….