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EARLY YEARS: New campaign, “When You Graduate, They Graduate,” encourages adults to earn high school diplomas

There are an estimated 35 to 40 million adults in the US who haven’t finished high school
An estimated 35 to 40 million adults in the US don't have a high school diploma.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 6:09 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In this graduation season, Nona McKinney is proud to have earned her high school diploma, 30 years later.

“I became a mother at a very early age, and I dropped out to support my family and working, and my family grew, and I wasn’t able to go back to school,” says McKinney.

McKinney did finally go back, at the encouragement of her children and grandchildren.

But it wasn’t easy.

“I would get up at 5 to get the children ready for school. Classes would start at 9. I’d be in continuing education from 9 to 12, leave there, go to work, study, pick up the children, come home, study again. It was hectic, but I was very determined to make it happen,” says McKinney.

It’s that sort of dedication that The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is hoping to inspire with its new campaign with the Ad Council.

That message is crucial.

There are an estimated 35 to 40 million adults in the US who don’t have high school diplomas.

“It’s not about what could have been or should have been, but what can be. What we do know is when you go back and finish your diploma, and you take that first step in achieving that educational goal, doorways start to open,” says Denine Torr, Executive Director of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

That includes increased employment, higher wages and a better impact on future generations.

McKinney says her family was proud of her for going back to school.

“They were so proud. They cried. They came to the graduation and we like ‘our nana has her high school diploma.’ And I started college immediately after I got my diploma last year,” says McKinney.

For those who cut short their high school career, she has some words of wisdom.

“I would tell them to start immediately, start today. The resources will come. I would say build a support system, and look for your closest adult education school in your area that offer morning, night and online classes, and you can do it an I believe in you,” says McKinney.

To learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, click this link.

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