92-year-old Nanaimo woman graduates from high school


WATCH: A Nanaimo senior has gone back to school to finish a lifelong dream. Joan Deebank wanted to graduate from high school. This week she received her diploma at the age of 92 making her the oldest person, as far as the government is aware, to graduate from high school. Kendall Hanson reports

For the last three years, Joan Deebank has been walking the hallways of Nanaimo’s Island ConnectEd school.

“I never knew the day would ever come and I feel so good going to high school,” said Deebank.

Although a lifelong learner time, high school didn’t arrive until her nineties.

“I just wish I’d been to school a lot earlier,” said Deebank. “I found it a breeze. It was so easy.”

When she was growing up in England Deebank liked going to school but despite her wishes, her father pulled her out when she was just 14.

“My dad said ‘no need. You’re not going back to school. Stay home and you’re going out to work. Earn your keep. I’m not keeping you,'” recalled Deebank.

Deebank eventually ran away from home. She lied about her age and joined the army during the Second World War. That’s when she met her husband. After the war, they moved to Canada and raised their family of five.

On Tuesday Deebank graduated. She’s the oldest diploma recipient the government is aware of.

“I’m overjoyed. I’m happy,” said Deebank. “It’s got to sink in.”

Her daughter says she’s proud of her mom reaching this goal.

“It’s not just an education. It changes who she is inside, her sense of who she is,” said Sonia Lightfoot, her daughter.

One of her teachers says her oldest student has shown great qualities

“Joan inspires me,” said Kim Pepler. “I admire her never give up attitude and her grit and her determination and perseverance. It’s incredible.”

“I really can’t believe it. At my age I never thought it would happen,” said Deebank.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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