Murphy is first graduate

By Nancy Zeman nzeman@prairiepress.net
Posted 2/17/20

A 39-year-old Paris woman became the first graduate of the new Paris 95 Adult Education Program and told an emotional story of her quest to receive her high school diploma.

Melissa Murphy …

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Murphy is first graduate

Posted

A 39-year-old Paris woman became the first graduate of the new Paris 95 Adult Education Program and told an emotional story of her quest to receive her high school diploma.

Melissa Murphy tearfully accepted the Paris Union School District 95 high school diploma from school board president Kevin Knoepfel at the opening of the February monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 10.

The adult education program was established in January by the Paris 95 board for residents who are older than 21 who wish to receive their high school diploma. Paris 95 Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Larson said while Murphy is the first enrollee to complete work for her diploma, six others have also completed credits necessary.

A total of 39 adults are presently enrolled in the free program which officially opened Jan. 14, Larson said. Those enrolled complete their needed credits online, he explained.

The only thing missing from Monday’s celebration was a band playing “Pomp and Circumstance.” The school board meeting room was filled with Murphy’s husband, children, family members and friends as well as State Senator Chapin Rose, Paris Mayor Craig Smith and members of the Paris City Council.

Murphy shared the story of her journey from being a senior at North Vigo High School to accepting her diploma. She had to pause several times, overcome with emotion.

School was never easy, Murphy said, because she is dyslexic and struggled every year. As a 16-year-old Terre Haute North junior, Murphy became pregnant with her oldest child. She was forced to leave school, she said, because the principal of the school at the time labeled her a bad influence and poor example for other students. He suggested she transfer somewhere else. “I wasn’t going to transfer,” she said.

Eventually living on her own and working, Murphy approached the school about completing her studies. Murphy said she couldn’t pass the test for the waiver to graduate.

“They told me if I didn’t miss a day of the remainder of the year, I could get my diploma,” she said.

Unfortunately, Murphy missed a part of a day and the principal refused to sign or award her a diploma.

“He told me I got what I deserved,” she said.

“I always told my kids how important an education is but I felt like a hypocrite because I did not have my high school diploma,” she said, dabbing her eyes with tissues.

When the free adult education program became available she jumped at the chance.

“I have a son, Devin, graduating from high school this year and I wanted to get this done before he finished,” she said. “It was and is so important to me.”

While the Paris 95 program offers job placement help, Murphy is already employed. She is the manager of the Dollar Tree store in Paris.

“Melissa is just one of a hundred stories like this in Paris,” Larson noted. “I can’t praise our school board enough for making this program available. Together we are making our community better.”

Rose, who represents the majority of Edgar County, has been working with Larson for more than a year to make the Paris 95 program a reality.

“Thanks to Dr. Larson for all of the work he put in,” Rose said.

The state senator was particularly interested in Murphy’s story because two of his children are dyslexic and he understands her struggles from experience.

Others speaking during the ceremony were Illinois State Board of Education Deputy Superintendent Jason Helfer, who over sees the Center of Teaching and Learning. He called into the ceremony to congratulate Murphy and emphasize the importance of adult education.

“You were willing to take the steps to help adults in your community to improve their lives,” Helfer said.