A great grandfather from southeastern D.C. has reason to celebrate after he got his high school diploma last week.
At 70 years old, Anthony Wilkinson makes it a point to read something out of a program he created to help prevent kids from making some of the mistakes he made.
“I would like to help and save and enrich their lives,” Wilkinson said.
That's because he remembers the point his life was in shambles. His dad walked out on his family and Wilkinson dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He turned to life on the streets.
“I stuck a needle into my arm in 1964 after I come up off of incarceration in juvenile system,” Wilkinson said. “From there I drugged, I jailed, I stole, I robbed and I took things where I didn't really care.”
Wilkinson was addicted to heroin which caused a strain on his relationship with family.
“I numbed myself with the drugs that were induced into me. I was, like, petrified - I had a no-care attitude,” Wilkinson said. “Something clicked in for the reason I decided to turn my life around because it was like falling into a bottomless pit.”
Wilkinson eventually got into Ballou High School's STAY program to finish what he started more than 50 years ago.
“That was something that was void in me, and I promised myself that I would get this piece of paper,” he said.
Wilkinson earned his high school diploma with his family by his side and is already enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia. The senior hopes young people pay attention to his story and make the right decisions.
“Never give up," he said. "When you start something always end it. And this is what's happening with me."