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100-year-old gets diploma in Hayward

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POSTED April 24, 2014 7:15 p.m.

HAYWARD (AP) — A 100-year-old Hayward woman has received her high school diploma some eight decades after she dropped out.

Mildred Principe got the diploma on Wednesday at Hayward High School during a tearful ceremony that included a limousine ride, orchestra music and a cake in her honor, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“It’s unbelievable ... It just makes you feel better,” Principe said after the ceremony. “I remember everything, too. That’s a blessing and a curse, isn’t it?”

The newspaper said Principe’s family of mostly coal miners headed west to California from Iowa in the mid-1920s. The family settled near downtown Hayward and worked in canneries, orchards and factories.

“They came for the same reason everyone else moves to California. Because everything’s going to be better in California, right?” said Principe’s niece, Judi Jones of Oakland.

Principe enrolled at Hayward High in 1927, when some students still rode horses to school. But she left before graduating and married her high school sweetheart, who worked as a carpenter.

Principe worked for decades at a drug store newsstand without completing her high school education.

The couple didn’t have kids of their own but were close with their 60 or so nieces and nephews, most of whom stayed in the area.

“She really deserves this,” Jones said. “She’s always been there for everyone else. Now it’s nice to see her getting her due.”

Principe said she remembers feeling overwhelmed and lost when she started high school. But that all changed on Wednesday when current students curiously asked her questions including what she wore to school back then.

“Uniforms— black skirts and white blouses,” she replied.

Her favorite subject: “Not algebra,” she said.

And what was Hayward like back then: “I lived with my grandma — about all we did was go to church,” she added.

Hayward schools Superintendent Stan Dobbs said he was hopeful that Principe’s visit would foster student pride in the school and community.

 

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