Do you have a high school diploma?

There it was, in some form or other, on every application. The same question. The same answer.

No.

It didn’t really bother Evelyn Hunter because she knew why she quit high school in 1980. She wanted to be home with her children. She prioritized them. She’d do it again.

But when friends talked about class reunions, Hunter was always a little embarrassed.

When she looked into business school, she was turned away.

When she couldn’t get promotions, it stung.

“It was always, ‘Call me when you get it,’” said Hunter, 55. “So, now I got it. And I’m going to be knocking on a lot of doors.”

Tuesday night, Hunter walked across a stage and collected a diploma from Dohn Community High School, a charter school with a special program for people 22 and older. Hunter graduated with her daughter, Tyrea Hunter, 33, and two nieces, Evelyn Hunter Jr., 24, and Andrea Foster, 20. All four attended Dohn at the same time.

“I’m trying to get all my family in there,” said Hunter. “I have 11 grandchildren. I wanted to make an example and let them know, ‘Hey, Nanny can do it; you can do it. Don’t be discouraged.’”

Dohn (pronounced D-A-W-N) is a dropout-recovery school, targeting students who otherwise would probably not graduate. The charter school has about 1,000 students in all, including those in the 22-plus program.

Hunter’s family got a special shout-out from Tuesday’s commencement speaker, Yvette Simpson, a city councilwoman who is running for mayor.

Hunter was born in Cincinnati but grew up in Dayton. She went to what was then Colonel White High School, but when she had her first child at 17, she dropped out. She tried to go back a year later, but she couldn’t make it work. She was married, she had two of her five children already, and there just wasn’t time, she said.

Plus, neither of her parents had a high school diploma, she said, and they seemed fine.

“I didn’t think I needed it,” she said. “I didn’t think it mattered.”

A few years ago, she tried to earn her GED, but she was working full-time and gave it up to focus on her job. Then, her grandson told her about Dohn, and in August 2016, she enrolled.

Tuesday’s graduating class was 220 strong, about half in the traditional program and half in the 22-plus program, said Principal Ramone Davenport. The oldest graduate was 63.

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Source: USA TODAY / Hannah Sparling