Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keystone Heights Woman's a Proud Grad

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keystone Heights Woman's a Proud Grad

Article excerpt

For years, Miriam McLeod- Johnson had a secret.

On job applications, when potential employers asked the Keystone Heights woman if she had graduated from high school, she checked yes. But that was not the truth.

"I was an A-B student in high school, but due to family circumstances I had to leave in my senior year," McLeod-Johnson said.

For a woman who prided herself on having integrity, that secret weighed on her heavily. Last year, she finally decided to rectify the situation and became a student in the Clay County Adult and Community Education program, which is run by the school district.

She was apprehensive about being a 34-year-old student among much younger classmates. But her husband, Michael Johnson, was supportive, as were her three children, once she told them what she was doing and why. And she had an "encouraging" teacher to help guide her, she said.

On Thursday, after six months of classes and tests, she walked across an Orange Park High School stage and received her high school equivalency diploma.

She was one of 93 people graduating Thursday from Clay's high school equivalency or other adult education programs. They wore caps and gowns, heard Pomp and Circumstance playing in the background and saw proud friends and relatives in the audience.

"It was something that had been in my heart to do. I am a born-again Christian and God had laid it on my heart," said McLeod-Johnson. "This was a step in the right direction."

She also received a $1,000 scholarship from the Clay County Education Foundation, which she plans to use to further her education at Santa Fe Community College. She has narrowed her career goals to public relations or psychology.

"What is so wonderful about this is, you see the average age [of the graduates], and . . . she is maybe a year or two older. She worked hard and made sacrifices," said Sandy McCracken, the foundation board member and former Clay assistant school superintendent who presented the scholarship. "It is wonderful to have those goals and to be able to achieve."

McLeod-Johnson's husband was unable to attend the ceremony, but her proud children were among those in the audience. …

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