Latreal McDaniel displays the 2001 Dougherty High School diploma it took him 10 years to finally get. In 2001 he was denied graduation because he was one-half credit shy of requirements. But McDaniel did have the credit and that began a 10-year quest to get his high school diploma, which he received last week.
ALBANY, Ga. — In May of 2001, Latreal McDaniel was preparing for his graduation from Dougherty High School when he got a phone call from the school.
“A woman called and asked me if I could come down to the Civic Center for graduation prep,” McDaniel said. “When I got there she told me I would not be able to walk with my class because I was a half credit short of graduation requirements.”
What happened after that was a 10-year odyssey that took McDaniel through meetings, phone calls, and sitting in waiting rooms until he finally got what he says he deserved all along — his high school diploma.
“I was aware of the half-credit problem long before graduation,” McDaniel recalled. “I even went before the (school system’s academic) tribunal and explained the situation to them. They granted me the half credit and said their would be no problem.
“The first time I knew there was an issue was when I walked into the civic center that day.”
McDaniel was stunned by the news.
“I was devastated,” he said. “I told my mother and everybody. I just went home. Look at it this way, I was just one individual, I felt really alone because I couldn’t get any answers. I love Dougherty High but I was hurt and embarrassed.
“I know I did my work. I knew I had earned that degree.”
For the next two years, for two or three times a month, McDaniel would trek to the office at Dougherty High in a vain attempt to find out why he was denied his diploma.
“I finally just gave up, left it alone and started looking for work,” McDaniel said.
But work, without a high school diploma, was difficult to find.
“I wanted to join the service, but couldn’t get in because I didn’t have a diploma,” said McDaniel, who worked at a number of jobs until getting a call earlier this year from Michelle Taylor, who is secretary to the chair of the sociology and psychology department at Albany State University.
“Michelle knew about my situation and talked to (Dougherty County School System Superintendent) Dr. (Joshua) Murfree and asked him to look at my transcript,” McDaniel said. “A couple of days later I got a call from Dougherty saying my transcript was in order and that I could have my diploma.
“That was a bittersweet moment for me. I felt like I had been shot on my birthday.”
McDaniel expressed gratitude towards Taylor and Murfree, but also wondered why the problem took so long to correct.
“I am thankful to Michelle and Dr. Murfree, but no one in the school system did a thing for me,” McDaniel said. “And a 10-year mistake took just minutes to fix. I was wrongfully denied.”
McDaniel, however, has put the past behind him and is looking forward to the future.
“I’m happy,” McDaniel said. “I feel like I’ve just gotten out of high school again, and I don’t want to waste any more time.”