After dropping out of high school in the 1940s, a Mississippi woman finally received her GED. Members of her community made sure the grandmother received the pomp and circumstance usually associated with the honor by producing a graduation ceremony for her.
Ellouise Lewis, born on June 1, 1932, celebrated receiving her honorary GED at the tender age of 90, thanks to the thoughtful staff of the Gulfport Care Center in Gulfport, Mississippi. The accomplishment comes after the scholar had to drop out of school when she was in the 10th grade, according to WLOX.
The center posted the occasion on its Facebook page, writing, “We had a resident who shared with us that she missed getting her G.E.D. by 1 question when she was younger and always regretted not going back to get it.”
“Our team went right to work to help make it happen,” the post continued. “And today she took a modified test and was presented her honorary G.E.D. with family and friends cheering her on. Thank you to Leonard and Linda Martin at the Christian Education and Training Center for your assistance with the test. CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR GRADUATE!!!”
Leaving school was not uncommon for African-Americans born in the 1920s and ’30s. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that only 7 percent of Blacks had a high school education in 1940, substantially lower than the national statistic that reveals only 24 percent of Americans attained a secondary school education.
The statistics are staggering, considering now 88 percent of Black people have a high-school diploma.
Now, after her ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 21, Lewis can consider herself in the community.
It all started when Lewis confessed her continued desire to complete her high school education to the activity director at the facility, Lisa Perdue.
Perdue said she wanted to make that wish come true, and so she started researching ways to accomplish the academic goal. She contacted a Christian-based learning center in Gulfport called Wells of SouthGate and asked for help from the facility.
She spoke to Leonard Martin and helped facilitate the process of getting her the degree, one that would be a historic move for the organization. Lewis became the first person to receive the honorary GED certificate from the company.
The distinction of being first was not lost on her son Greg Lewis. He sees his mother’s desire to complete the honorary GED certification as a way to inspire others.
“She’s the first,” the proud son said. “She’s pivotal. So, hopefully, it will open doors for others to follow in her footsteps.”
While it is not an official GED, it does have weight as Lewis had to pass a test that demonstrated a certain level of scholarship mastery and determination.
Martin and his wife Linda McClary Martin presented the certificate to Lewis, saying, “It was just great to be involved with this.”
Perdue, excited about helping to make Lewis’ dream come true, said, “It’s a blessing to me and to my coworkers to be able to make this happen.”
But no one is more proud than the honoree.
“I never did get a chance to graduate until this day,” Lewis said. “When they told me here that I could get my GED, I was happy about it. I’m still happy. Excuse me, because this makes me happy to know that I can do this.”