SUMNER COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) - Dozens of seniors at Wellington High School crossed the stage to get their diplomas this month, but for Jackson May, it was a moment he wouldn't forget.

As his name was called, the crowd cheered for him, but perhaps the loudest cheers came from his grandpa Mike Nichols. He knows how special this moment is because he too just graduated high school.

"I left school in 1976," Mike said. "I was a junior. I just started junior year and was behind in classes. I could not read very well at all. I was very dyslexic, and ADHD, so I was in trouble a lot."

Things were tough for him, so he dropped out of school with 7.5 credits under his belt. He went on to pursue many joys in life, and it's been a full life, including marriage and kids. He became a welder for Beechcraft Aircraft, which is where he worked for 43.5 years. He retired from there a couple of years ago.


Still, one thing kept nagging the 64-year-old.

"I've always wanted my diploma and wished I hadn't quit school but," he said. "It's kind of like a bucket list thing."

Mike found a program, Orion Education and Training, which would allow him to finish what he started. He was enrolled with 38 other non-traditional students. It provided flexibility, so they could complete tasks on their own time and pace. Students were anywhere from 20 to 78 years old, he said.

They celebrated with a graduation ceremony at Belle Plaine's Bartlett Arboretum this month.

"My little class had our ceremony," Mike described it. "There were six of us that graduated this year, and we had caps and gowns and tassels -- and all that good stuff. It was very moving."

Jackson said seeing his grandfather's hard work also motivated him at a time when he needed it most.

"I am very proud of my grandpa to get his high school accomplishments, even though he didn't have to," Jackson said. "He still did it just for himself... He got it done. That just proves he has great work ethic, you know. It improved over time instead of you know deteriorating."

Jackson admits that he, too, had moments when he wanted to drop out of school, but continued to work toward his goal. Now, they both can call themselves high school grads and had a party to commemorate the occasion.


"I love my grandpa a lot, so I thought it would be an honor to do my graduation with his," Jackson said. "I thought that would be really nice of a thing to do."

Pictures of the graduates -- Mike wearing his black cap-and-gown and Jackson wearing one in red -- showing you should never give up on a dream. As for what's next, Jackson plans to study art as a career. Mike said he's enjoying retirement, and he plans to mow his yard, he said smiling, and plans to continue to play the drums in his band.

For anyone who is struggling with school, Mike had one bit of advice: know that you can do it -- at any age.

"You can go back," he said. "Those programs where you pick up where you left off are really great. I could work from home as much as I wanted. I was always welcome at the site, which I did after I retired. I went there at least three times a week and spent several hours, and there's a teacher there always to guide you through. You can do it. Just sign up. It doesn't even cost money."