100 adults receive high school diplomas - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

100 adults receive high school diplomas

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

New doors are opening for 100 new graduates over the age of 18 as they earned their high school diplomas. For some, they didn't do it just for themselves.

There are more than 75,000 people in Shelby County over the age of 18 who do not have a high school diploma. That fact makes it more difficult for them to get a job and, if they do find a job, they earn less money than others.

But on Friday, 100 of those people changed their future when they graduated with the HopeWorks program.

Hope Crayton has waited a long time to walk across a stage like the one on Friday.

"I was at a stump," Crayton said. "Because I was trying to go somewhere else, and I was constantly getting blocked."

It's a challenge that tens of thousands of people in Shelby County face, including Leonardo Deharo.

"You know, it's a little bit harder to get a job sometimes. I mean, you kind of feel a little bit embarrassed when you go to a job interview and you're not able to put I have a high school diploma on there," Deharo said.

Even when Crayton and Deharo, and thousands of others, are able to get a job without a diploma, they earn an average of $10,000 a year less in Tennessee than people who do have a diploma.

"I gave up for awhile," Crayton said. "I gave up for awhile, but I came back and I finished."

Now, Crayton said the sky is the limit. She plans to continue her education and become a counselor or nurse. She wants to help other people.

Crayton fought back tears as she reflected on how getting her high school equivalency will not only change her own life, but her family's.

"It's not only for me," Crayton said. "My kids see this is momma accomplished."

Jacob Shock oversees the Adult Education program for HopeWorks and said graduation day is just as rewarding for those running the program as it is for those graduating from it.

"A lot of our students have been waiting and working a lot time for this," Shock said. "And they're excited and so are we."

All of them are hoping some of the 75,000 in Shelby County without a high school diploma will see it is possible to go back and finish what they started, just like Deharo and Crayton did.

"I mean, you can get it," Crayton said. "You can do it. It's nothing, just steps. But you have to take them."

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