Even though it broke her heart to leave, Margaret Thome Bekema dropped out of high school during her junior year.
At 17 years old, she felt she needed to sacrifice her education for her family. Bekema had three younger siblings and a mother who became sick with cancer. Her father asked her to leave school to care for the four of them while he worked.
Bekema cooked, cleaned and even made all of their clothes.
"It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was," she told Michigan news outlet Mlive. "I loved high school and I had lots of friends."
One of her relatives reached out to her high school, Grand Rapids Catholic Central High, and shared her story.
Even though it has been 79 years since she was supposed to graduate, representatives at the school decided she deserved to be presented with an honorary high school diploma.
Principal Greg Deja held a ceremony last Thursday at her senior community where Bekema was surrounded by her friends and family.
Donning a blue graduation cap and honor cords, she cried tears of joy. "I don't know how to express my thanks… I'm sorry. I'm just plain chicken," Bekema said during the ceremony.
Not only did she make sacrifices for her family as a teen, but she dedicated the rest of her life to helping others. She taught preschool children and did clerical work for the armed forces.
"Her life has been one of sacrifice and service," Deja told MLive. "It has been so encouraging and inspiring for our community because her choices represent all the core values that we teach our students."
Congratulations, Margaret! You're truly an inspiration to us all.
You can watch the moment she was presented with her diploma below:
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