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Closing a chapter 42 years later: Washington woman finally awarded high school diploma she earned decades ago

In front of a cheering crowd, Hammond was finally handed the high school diploma she rightfully earned in 1981.

TENINO, Wash. — Graduating high school is a feat worth celebrating. But for one former student of Tenino High School, the diploma she rightfully earned came 42 years late.

"We’d like to present to you our newest graduate, Jill Hammond," said a school board leader Monday night.

In front of a cheering crowd, Hammond was finally handed the high school diploma she rightfully earned in 1981.

“Now it’s time to party! Where’s the bubbly?" said Hammond. 

Hammond considers herself to have been a very good student "with good grades," but she said an unfulfilled agreement left her without a diploma for decades. In her senior year, she says her principal promised she would be okay to go to study abroad in Norway and still earn her degree after completing courses there.

She said her principal told her, "Your year over there will insert itself into this year here, and you’re good to go."

But when she came back, she was surprised to hear her principal had changed his tune.

"He said, 'Oh we don’t have a diploma for you,'" Hammond recalled.

So for decades, she went without one.

 “I didn’t go back. I was just like, 'Gonna get it later,' or something like that.”

It wasn’t until recently, when she tried to sign up for community college classes in art, that she was asked for proof of a diploma. She said she was disturbed to hear that a check of her background showed she had only finished high school through eleventh grade.

“And so I looked up who the principal was now, and I sent him an email to tell him my story, and he was like, 'I’d be honored to help you figure this out,' and I was like 'Yay!'”

While studying in Norway and forgoing a degree was no piece of cake, she said, "It was worth it. The whole experience was like-- it really changed my life.”

Forty-two years later, she can finally start a new chapter.

“I like to do art. I like to paint. So I want to do more of that," she said.

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