94-Year-Old Woman to Soon Graduate from Mass. High School

A 94-year-old woman is on track to graduate from a local public high school decades after she left the school just a couple credits shy of finishing.

Genevieve Johnson was set to graduate in 1936 from Westford Academy, then a one-room schoolhouse, according to the Westford Academy Ghostwriter student newspaper and WBZ-TV. But, because of the Great Depression, she said she needed to find a job instead to help support her family.

She went to work at a mill in town, according to the Ghostwriter.

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This spring, she returned to the school to complete the two-and-a-half credits she’d been missing for the past 78 years.

“It means that I will gladly say that I got a high school education, which I’ve always wanted, and here I am and I’m going to finish,” Johnson told WBZ-TV.

“It isn’t the same as when I went to school. We had homework naturally, but not as much as they do today,” she added.

She also told the Ghostwriter that there were far fewer students eight decades ago. Her graduating class had between 25 and 30 students. There are more than 400 seniors at the school this year.

Students look different, too.

“We had short hair, no long hair,” Johnson told the Ghostwriter. “I don’t remember anyone with long hair. The boys had to have the nice haircuts.”

She’s taking classes in English, US History and acting and has become one of the most popular students, according to the Ghostwriter and WBZ-TV.

“She actually lived through what we’re learning about so she provides an interesting insight to the class,” junior Renee Brody told the Ghostwriter.

Johnson will walk at graduation and will receive a “certificate of attendance.” But, she won’t get a diploma because she is not taking the MCAS.

The student newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ethan Walshe wrote that Johnson deserves a diploma. A poll below his column on the newspaper’s website had received more than 150 votes as of this afternoon, and 91 percent of voters agreed with Walshe.