Claudia Parries is proof positive that age has no barriers on a dream in the making. On May 20th this 98-year-old woman received a high school diploma that was 81 years in the making. In 1933 Parries was a senior in high school when her mother took ill; she left school to care for her family. On Tuesday her dream was finally realized when she received her diploma from The Howard School, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
After Parries mother died, as the oldest child, she had to step in and take care of her seven siblings. Parries never got the opportunity to graduate with her class. In the late 1930s Parries and her siblings moved to Ohio with her father. Once her siblings had grown up and were no longer in need of her “services” she got married and had to take care of her own family.
Parries married her husband in 1941. In the 1950s her family moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, because it had one of the best school districts in the country. Parries daughter, Evelyn, said her mother was a member of three parent teacher associations and always put the needs of her children before her own.
Claudia had eight children and she spent all of her time focusing on them. She was there to help them meet any goal they set their heart upon, especially where education was concerned. Parries said she was always thinking about her own educational goal which she did not get to meet. Evelyn said every time the topic of education came up her mother would cry; she had gotten so close to graduating back in 1933.
Evelyn, a retired school teacher, said she and her siblings wanted to give back to their mother for all the sacrifices she made for her family. They got in contact with the educational facility their mother once attended and made special arrangements with the school. They drove Parries from their home in Ohio all the way back to Chattanooga to give her the biggest surprise she had ever received.
When they arrived on Tuesday morning Parries was shocked to find there was an honorary diploma, cap, gown, cake, roses, balloons and a Howard School t-shirt waiting for her. This 98-year-old woman was elated for this experience and was equally happy to share it with her children. Claudia was so happy she was laughing and crying, at the same time.
The principal of Howard School, Zac Brown, said the email he received from Evelyn detailed how her mother had attended some college classes, traveled the world with her late husband of 65 years and was active in her church. Brown said out of all the accolades outlined in the email what really struck him was despite the obstacles that prevented Parries from graduating, all eight of her children did.
Parries had raised children who valued education. Each one of her children had earned a high school diploma and went on to college; two of her children have master degrees. Brown said Parries raised her children so well that even one became a teacher.
Parries said the school looked nothing like it did when she attended back in the 1930s. Her family rolled her down the halls in her wheelchair allowing her to see the remodeled classrooms and building. Claudia was so happy when her family draped her in her maroon gown and placed the gold tasseled cap on her head. She said, “This is my last day of school.”
Life comes at people with many chances to choose to back down and settle. This elderly woman’s story should be used as encouragement and empowerment to take possession of the life you want and know you deserve. Life yields its treasures to the one bold enough to demand the very best. Let this be the ammunition you need to become the person you were destined to be.
Claudia Parries is proof positive no matter how much distance is between a dream and its fulfillment, as long as one does not give up hope there is still an opportunity for that goal to be realized. On May 20, after 81 years, this 98-year-old woman received her high school diploma.
Opinion By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia Beach)