It’s never too late to graduate

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 11, 2021

 Hermelinda Sporea, 70, this year was able to achieve her goal of graduating from high school at Utica Community Schools.

Hermelinda Sporea, 70, this year was able to achieve her goal of graduating from high school at Utica Community Schools.

Photo provided by Tim McAvoy

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA/STERLING HEIGHTS — A 70-year-old woman has reached her goal to graduate from high school nearly 60 years after she left school to begin working.

As a member of the Utica Community Schools Adult Education Class of 2021, Hermelinda Sporea will graduate from high school June 6, nearly 60 years after she left school. During those nearly 60 years, she ran a small business, married and raised five children. But not having a high school diploma didn’t feel right, and she wanted to provide some extra motivation to her grandchildren.

“If grandma can do it, you can too. Don’t let me down,” she said in a press release.

At just 13 years old, Sporea said, she was already working. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for children to drop out of school and work.

She had to walk long distances to school and back, and it took a lot of time just to get to the school. She decided to drop out and just work full time.

Eventually she met her husband and had five children. She also went to beauty school and opened her own salon called Unisex Hair Magic.

Now many years later, Sporea, of Warren, decided she wanted to go back to school and finish her education not only to fulfill a life goal, but also to send a message to her 17 grandchildren about the importance of education. She signed up for a four-year program and was the oldest in her class.

Sporea said it’s been a dream ever since she was 13 years old.

“I went to other schools, but I could not complete my goal at that time due to raising my kids and running a salon full time. I think it’s great that I finally reached my goal. It was a struggle, but I did it,” she said in an email interview.

She said that what she found she enjoyed most about her time learning at UCS was the relationships she built with the staff and other students.

“(I enjoyed) being in school with other students working to accomplish the same goal. I liked being there for the other students and encouraging them to keep going and not give up. Don’t give out your education, give into it,” she said.

Sporea said there were some things she found that were difficult.

“Math, because it was difficult learning all the steps to solve problems. Math has changed a lot since I was in school years ago. The first day of my math class I broke down and got emotional believing it would be too difficult to proceed. I moved forward each day because I wanted to show my grandkids that if I could do it, then they could too. My teacher, Ms. Bashair, told me if I could do multiplication, I could do anything. That day, I left school and bought flashcards to practice. I was proud to raise my hand and have the correct answers. Ms. Bashair helped build my confidence,” she said.

She said there were times she thought about how she was the oldest in the class.

“I never gave up that dream ever. However, there were times I would look around my class, see the younger students, and feel like I don’t belong here. Then, I would tell myself, of course I belong here. I have been wanting this for so many years,” she said.

She said she can finally say she did it.

“I finally did it! I am going to miss the staff at the school and my classmates. They were all so supportive of me in this journey,” she said.

Landon Polley was one of Sporea’s teachers and taught English I and English II.

“She is great. Hermelinda has true grit, she never gave up,” he said.

He found what helped Sporea learn best was giving her choices and finding what she likes. Then she was motivated to work hard and learn.

He said math and science classes were hard for her.

He said that some of the topics they covered in her classes, Sporea could add some personal experiences she had lived through.

“When we were discussing historical fiction books on civil rights, Hermelinda actually lived through that and we had some great discussions,” he said.

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