Almost 80 years later, a Holocaust survivor received an honorary diploma from an Ohio high school where she had forged a special bond with students after visiting as a guest speaker.
Paula Marks-Bolton, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor from West Bloomfield, Mich., walked across the graduation stage Sunday as she received an honorary diploma from Lake High School near Toledo.
“What it means to me after all these years to be graduating in the United States of America, in the beautiful country which I love so much, it’s the greatest honor,” she said to the Toledo Blade.
In 2013, Marks-Bolton, who was born in Ozarkow, Poland, spoke at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony, which a group of eighth graders from Lake Middle School attended. The students listened to Marks-Bolton speak about love and tolerance, and her experiences during World War II.
“We studied about the Holocaust but she made the story feel real,” said Park Lake, now a high school graduate who first met Marks-Bolton in middle school, according to NBC24.
Marks-Bolton says she was a prisoner in Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and other concentration camps during her teen years after the Nazis invaded Poland when she was 13, according to the Toledo Blade. Because she was at the camps, she could not attend school.
The middle school students kept in touch with Marks-Bolton throughout the years. They would write letters and send care packages. They invited her to come back to Ohio to speak and spend time with them on a number of occasions, according to the Blade.
By the time the middle school students reached high school, they eventually came up with the idea of giving her an honorary degree.
“She took classes but never actually got to graduate,” said graduate Kayla Saffran. “It’s really special to have her walk with our class.”
Marks-Bolton would have graduated high school in 1944, so the school got her a special graduation cap tassel that includes a charm for that year.