Eileen Delaney is a 93-year-old woman from Centerville, Virginia. Seventy-five years ago, she was forced to quit high school, and she never received her diploma.
But on her 93rd birthday, that officially changed. Eileen finally got her diploma, an honorary degree from Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York, the high school she attended 75 years ago. There were balloons, a graduation cap, and a giant smile on her face.
Eileen's daughter Maureen shared details from Eileen's birthday and graduation celebration on Facebook, and their story went totally viral. The whole thing was a surprise organized by Eileen's children and nieces.
"I belonged to the alumni association all these years, I've always had letters from them, but I had no idea, I have to be honest, I had absolutely no idea this was going to happen," Eileen told WABC.
Eileen was forced to leave school midway through her senior year. Her mother had passed away when she was younger, and her father remarried. The family was going through some tough times and Eileen's stepmother told her she had to get a full-time job.
"She insisted my senior year that I got to work, that if I was going to live in that house that I paid rent, and I had no choice," Eileen said. So Eileen went to work for the New York Telephone Company. Eventually, she met her husband, got married, had kids, and raised a family.
It was her family members who gathered together and arranged for her to finally receive her diploma. Eileen's granddaughter Delaney Elliot said, "For someone who has done so much for everybody else and never asked for anything in return I felt like this was the least that we could do for her."
Andrew Greenfield, the current principal of Port Richmond High School, "said the decision to give Delaney her diploma was probably the easiest and happiest he's made all year."
"She is our Cinderella," Eileen's daughter Maureen told People. "She is one great lady who makes the best of everything and has been the foundation for our family."
Maureen continued, "She was moved by receiving the honorary diploma. Andrew Greenfield, the principal of Port Richmond High School, was so kind to hear my cousin's request and act so quickly. It made for a very special zoom event with family."
"[There was] not a dry eye in the house or on Zoom," Maureen said. "My mom will be the first to tell you she never dwelled on not getting her diploma. She makes the most of every day and opportunity. It was a way to add a happy ending to what had been a difficult part of her life after losing her mother."
Eileen says she has no regrets about how her life turned out. "I'm very lucky," she said. "I've had a good life. This was like the topping on the cake."