Olympia resident Jill Hammond, formerly Jill Leitzke, finally received her high school diploma from Tenino High School more than four decades after completing her classes. The Tenino School District presented her diploma at its regular board meeting held Monday night.
“I want to thank you very much,” Hammond said to the school board after being presented with the diploma.
Hammond reached out to her old high school after she recently attempted to go back to college to study art and was asked for proof of graduating high school.
According to Tenino High School Principal Scott Hyder, who attended Tenino High School shortly after Hammond, Hammond pushed the school to take part in a foreign exchange program she had heard of, specifically for Scandinavian students, before the 1981 school year began.
Being of Scandinavian descent, Hammond desperately wanted to go and ended up studying in Norway for her senior year in 1981.
“She went on to explain that her principal, Larry Maguire, for whatever reason when she got back, things just didn’t transpire,” Hyder said.
It’s unclear why no diploma for Hammond was issued. She spent the next 42 years without recognition for completing high school. Maguire passed away in 2006.
“When I came back (from Norway), I was like, ‘hey I’m here to get my diploma,’ and (Maguire) said, ‘I don’t have one for you,’ and I said ‘what, are you kidding me?’ Well, I didn’t say exactly that,” Hammond said.
She believed her graduation would be reflected in school records, despite not having a physical copy of her diploma. Hammond found out that wasn’t the case when she began applying to colleges.
Hyder added that Maguire was his principal when he attended high school, too, and it was an honor for him to finally give Hammond her diploma and fulfill Maguire’s work.
Hammond reached out to Hyder last October and Hyder began working on securing a diploma for her. Hyder looked at her academic records and confirmed she completed and passed all required classes, so he granted her a diploma.
“I got all the evidence that she had all the required classes, and there’s a (Washington Administrative Code) that states that if I feel she’s fulfilled minimum requirements I can grant the diploma. She had great grades and she was a trailblazer in going overseas,” said Hyder.
Despite not initially getting her diploma, Hammond stated she never regretted studying abroad in Norway.
“The mother of the family (I stayed with) didn’t speak English, so I learned (Norwegian) pretty quick,” Hammond said.
She added it was good for her to see the world while she was young and that it helped her broaden her horizons. Hammond can still read, write and speak Norwegian.
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