69-year old graduates at Academy West Commencement

69-year old graduates at Academy West Commencement
Posted on 04/19/2022

FLINT, Michigan (WJRT) - (05/31/2019) - At 69-years young, Peru Ivey earned his high school diploma through the Academy West Adult Education program.

He wasn't the only one in the spotlight at Friday night's commencement program at Hamady High School.

At just 16 years of age, Zarieah Hamlin will be enrolling at Mott Community College in the fall on a full ride scholarship.

She was honored with the scholarship at Friday night's graduation ceremony for Academy West Alternative High School.

The accomplishment did not come easy for the Flint teen.

She said her life turned upside down when her grandfather died on February 14, 2017.

Hamlin said the very next day, she was arrested for fighting and expelled from school.

Then her mother underwent a couple of major surgeries.

Hamlin said her wake up call came in September of 2017, when she found out she had failed the 9th grade.

The news devastated the teen, who did not want to disappoint her mother.

"I have to work hard," Hamlin recalled thinking, "I have to get to where I have to be to make her proud, this isn't what I want."

Hamlin enrolled at Academy West Alternative High School, taking additional online classes, and finishing early.

She said her career goal is to become a math teacher.

A decision based in part, on her positive experience at Academy West.

Pastor and renowned gospel singer Marvin Winans told the graduates that what matters is not what others think about you, but what you think about yourself.

"If you think," Winans said, "and do the work that needs to make you successful, I can guarantee that out of this class, there will be some successful Flintstones that will change the world."

"Those that fall down, must get back up," said student speaker Peru Ivey, who students and teachers refer to as "Pops".

As the oldest graduate in the room, the 69-year old said he was mistakenly placed under arrest for a crime he didn't commit at the age of 17.

He ended up missing a little over a week of school as a result of the incident.

But instead of returning to school, he said he decided to get a job to help support his family.

Ivey said he later earned a degree in theology, but it was his wife
who encouraged him to complete his high school diploma.

He was able to complete his coursework through the Academy West Adult Education Program.

"It is so wonderful," he told the students, "to be able to stand here and proclaim my bucket list."

We asked him what advice he would offer to young people, to which he replied:

"Don't give up, no matter who tells you that you cannot do it, you can."

Advice that Ivey has taken to heart 52 years later.

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