COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Around 500 seniors waited all year and through tough times to finally drive through their Shaker High School graduation ceremony on Saturday. A local Army veteran waited more than 40 years to join them.
Winston Chesterfield missed his senior year of high school to join the armed forces back in 1979.
“I got my GED while I was in the service, but I never received my high school diploma, so I decided to go for it,” Chesterfield explains NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Chesterfield reached out to his alma mater, Shaker High, through Operation Recognition. It’s part of New York State’s education law to honor devoted veterans who left school early to serve.
“We all have these ceremonies that we all still cling to, and how wonderful it is for us, as an educational institution, where somebody who 41 years ago did not have that opportunity to receive that high school diploma, but still feels it’s important,” says Shaker High Principal Richard Murphy.
Chesterfield says he did this for his elderly mother, now in her 90s.
“My mother was a teacher for North Colonie [Central] School District for almost 30 years, and you know she was kind of bummed out that I never received it. Getting it, just while she’s still alive was really a special moment for me,” he says.
He says he made sure to go all out, down to the tassel on his cap, to surprise his mom.
“I walked into my mom’s house with the cap and gown on, with the diploma in hand, to meet my mother with it and she was just totally shocked when she came around the corner seeing me,” he says.
Chesterfield also says he wanted to encourage his grandkids and other veterans like himself that it’s never too late to chase a dream.
“If you’ve got something out there that you want to reach for and grab, keep going for it,” he says.