Michigan program helps WWII vets get their high school diplomas

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Many called to duty during World War II weren't able to graduate from high school, but thanks to a program in Michigan, schools are now able to give all eligible veterans their own diploma.

While this program isn't new, Niles Community Schools is offering a new push to help get those vets the recognition they've deserved for a long time.

Public Act 181 in Michigan says honorably discharged World War II veterans can apply for a high school diploma and finally celebrate the milestone their classmates did so many years ago.

Dr. Dan Applegate, Superintendent at Niles Community Schools says handing out diplomas to local veterans is a fitting way to recognize their efforts serving country, community and family.

“They turned their cap & down in for a uniform and gave again the ultimate sacrifice" says Dr. Applegate. “Well I know from many of our veterans, this is a missing part in their lives. You know – to be able to complete what they started, and I think this is an opportunity for them to do that.”

Veterans called to serve between Dec. 16, 1940 and Dec. 31, 1946 can apply for a diploma.

One of those young men drafted in 1943 was Niles High School student Oscar Johnson. He moved from basketball star to first scout in the U.S. Army serving in France.

Lynda Caneva helped her father Oscar Johnson get his Niles High School diploma.

“To think that he was such a young man put in such a situation he was put in and handled himself obviously very well," she says. "His duties as a scout were to be one of the first people who walked into the battlefield to go and make sure the place was clear or there weren’t any of the enemy there," Caneva says.

Caneva says the opportunity to get her father a diploma meant a lot to the family.

“It was emotional for me and my mom. My mom was alive at the time and she was very emotional about it,” Caneva says.

Johnson is now 92, but his pride still beaming from being able to see and hold the achievement he earned more than 70 years ago.

“I know he’s proud of it because it has a prominent place in living room on the shelf," says Caneva.

To get a diploma for you or your loved one, contact Niles Community Schools about starting the application process. Its phone number is (269) 683-0732.

You’ll need their honorable discharge papers to complete the paperwork.

If you’d like the diploma by this spring, you must apply by April 25th.

Veterans who attended other schools can apply for their diploma through Michigan Veterans Affairs at 800-MICH-VET (800-642-4838).