Western New Jersey

74-year-old woman receives honorary diploma

VIDEO: Dora Werkheiser - PHS Graduate

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - It's a day in June a lot of high school seniors wait for, and a goal 20 years in the making for one Warren County, New Jersey woman.

Her goal of receiving a high school diploma was put on hold when she moved into the Lopatcong Care Center.

Just when it didn't look like Dora Werkheiser, 74, wouldn't reach that goal, someone granted a wish.

"I love being here, but I just want to get my high school diploma,” recalled Jane Neffue, recreational director at Lopatcong Care Center. “But if I am here, I'm not going to be able to continue to study to get my GED."

Werkheiser is mentally challenged and never attended school, but she knows the value of an education.

"She says, 'I don't think I'm hearing you right,'” said Neffue. “'Did you say I'm getting my high school diploma?'"

The resident who won the competition through the program called "One Wish" wanted to anonymously give the gift to someone else, so Werkheiser graduated.

"I'm so very happy inside,” said Werkheiser. “So very happy, couldn't ask for anything better."

Students linied the hall for the special celebration.

"For us it was quite simple, let's make it happen any way, shape, or form we need to," said George Chando, superintendent of the Phillipsburg Area School District.

Chando handed Werkheiser her honorary diploma, which makes her officially the first graduate of the new Phillipsburg High School.

Werkheiser said she hopes it will inspire others.

"I hope it is helpful to the students who are going to graduate,” said Werkheiser. “Where they can continue what they set out to do in life."

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