We already told you about Horace Sheffield, the remarkable 88-year-old former pastor who recently recognized his lifelong dream of completing a college degree.
Now, there’s another amazing story about an elderly Holocaust survivor who — more than seven decades after being forced to stop her education — has received an honorary high school diploma.
Esther Begam, 88, walked into an auditorium in Plymouth, Minnesota, earlier this month, donning a cap and gown and walked across the room to receive her diploma. It was an opportunity that was robbed from her during her childhood after the Nazis captured her family members and forced her into a labor camp, KARE-TV reported.
Begam, from Poland, was just 11 years old when the Nazis invaded her country.
She quickly found herself out of school and working in a Jewish ghetto before being sent to a labor camp. Her dad, a rabbi who knew seven or eight languages, disappeared after joining the Polish army as a chaplain and her mom and brother died at Auschwitz; her sister also died in the carnage.
By the time World War II had ended, Begam’s entire family — including aunts and grandparents — were also gone, leaving her entirely alone.
“Everybody was gone,” Begam told KARE.
At age 17, she married, moved to Minnesota and started a family. While she carried on with her life, she never let go of her educational dreams. In fact, it was decades later when she was sharing her story at a local high school when a student asked her to share her biggest regret.
Begam responded that she most regretted not having the opportunity to receive a high school diploma — an admission that set her on a path to accomplish that very goal.
— Wayzata High School (@whshereforyou) May 10, 2017
Candice Ledman, the teacher who was in the classroom that day at Wayzata High School, successfully urged the school to offer Begam an honorary degree.
And earlier this month — 71 years after her education was so tragically halted — a ceremony unfolded, with the Holocaust survivor’s entire family assembling to honor her.
After a standing ovation, Begam threw her cap into the air, taking part in the honorary graduation custom. The audience, clearly moved by her story, erupted in both applause and tears.
“It’s 71 years overdue,” Wayzata High School principal Scott Gengler said of the degree.
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