It took 47 years, but Warren Kreway is finally getting his high school diploma.
Kreway, 65, left school in Rosemary about 10 credits short of completing Grade 12 in 1967.
On June 27, he will be one of about 230 students graduating from Lacombe Composite High School at a ceremony at Westerner Park.
Kreway could have applied to get his diploma based on his training while employed through the years, including courses he took at Mount Royal College.
Instead, he enrolled in three classes and was shoulder-to-shoulder with high school students for three months.
“Is it worth doing what I’ve done? Absolutely. When I see the reaction of the students. When I see the friendships that we’ve built. When I see the reaction of the student body, and when I see the reaction of the faculty — it’s like coming home,” said Kreway, of Lacombe, who drives a school bus for Wolf Creek Public Schools.
He would bus students from Blackfalds, attend class, then get back in the driver’s seat to take students home.
He admitted his first few days of class last fall were awkward and students were unsure why he was there, so he got up and spoke in front of his class.
“I explained to them why and what I was doing and the purpose behind it. And the class actually got up and gave me a standing ovation.”
Kreway has been a volunteer with high school’s robotic club for a few years.
When he bashfully revealed to them that he didn’t have his diploma and felt uncomfortable leaving his education unfinished, students encouraged him to do something about it.
He said school definitely has changed, with the emphasis on using computers and the large classes.
“Nowadays, you’re up to 40-some kids in the classroom. What I was hoping to get was more one-on-one.
“I did (get one-on-one assistance), but not as much as I expected.”
Kreway said he learned more about the challenges youth face today.
While students helped him when it came to computers, he was kind of like the “resident grandfather” providing encouragement.
But mostly, Kreway said he was seen as just another student to talk to about homework and class.
He was surprised to discover a passion for writing after critiquing novels and movies for class.
“Once the valve opened, I couldn’t shut it off. I was writing 30- and 40-page essays. It’s opened a new door that hasn’t closed and I don’t want it to close.”
Kreway said he did take the opportunity to try to steer students towards post-secondary education.
“Grade 12 isn’t enough anymore. You have to have college or university. No matter what you do in the working world, you need that. In my day, you didn’t need that.”
In the 1960s, Kreway left school for a job in Calgary in freight delivery. He also spent many years in appliance service.
Kreway said it was common for people of his generation to not complete their schooling.
“I wasn’t alone. But I felt alone.”
He hopes his success will encourage others his age to consider finishing high school.
When the 2013-14 yearbook was being prepared, Kreway was asked what he was going to do after graduation. While he’s not sure if he’ll further his education, he has applied for a teaching assistant job at the high school.
For now, he’s just looking forward to graduation day. He said his fellow students are also waiting to see him walk across the stage to accept his diploma.
“I wanted to know what it was like to go back to school. It became instant family.”