'Mom, I made it': 81-year-old Hutchinson man’s high school graduation

The power of persistence is paying off for a Hutchinson octogenarian.

Graduation day always brings a smile to Sam Flom’s face. "I’m here early, of course," he said before Thursday night's ceremony.

In his 81 years, Flom’s attended a dozen or more of them. But the Class of 2024 will always hold a special place in his heart.

It’s a group important enough to catch the attention of Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

"I want to highlight one graduate in particular today," she said in a video graduation speech.

This year’s Hutchinson Adult Education class speaker is the student who took the longest road to the podium: Flom. 

"I know firsthand how much diligence, perseverance, and hard work it takes," he told his fellow graduates.

Flom’s journey took 66 years, from dropping out of high school in 10th grade to do stints in construction, the Army, as a janitor and a gambling manager, to exactly 1,027.25 hours at the school's computers. 

That was just enough to get him across the finish line for an adult diploma.

"What a relief it was, knowing that I finally made it to get my diploma," Flom said.

He got a community out of his efforts, too. Flom may be the most popular student at the school, quick with a joke and generous with his attention.

So, even after graduation, he’s not leaving school. The lifelong learner will keep coming back to study computer literacy and socialize with teachers and fellow students.

Now that he’s pushed the tassels from right to left, he has no regrets except that, because it took so long, it was his sisters and son in the audience instead of his mother.

"You know, when I get to heaven, I'll say 'Mom, I made it,'" he said.