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Some South Coast veterans may finally receive their high school diplomas

Vets pictured in 2019 receiving their High School Diplomas
Luis Medina
Vets pictured in 2019 receiving their High School Diplomas in Santa Barbara County.

During the 1940s and 1970s, thousands of students left high school to serve in the armed forces.

It’s a proud moment, but one which many Veterans – or those held in internment camps – as teens, missed out on.

But the chance to graduate high school is being offered to some on the South Coast.

Veterans and previously interned citizens may be granted retroactive high school diplomas by the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) through the Operation Recognition program.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Education and SBCEO invite veterans and individuals who meet the eligibility requirements to apply for their high school diplomas and participate in the Operation Recognition graduation ceremony on April 7, 2022.

Individuals may also apply posthumously for deceased family members who meet the criteria.

Santa Barbara County Board of Education’s Valerie Cantella told KCLU that it's a proud and emotional moment for the vets and their families.

"We have seen immense pleasure and honor from these individuals in the ability to walk across the stage and have a graduation ceremony and receive this piece of paper which has eluded them previously," said Cantella.

"The warmth and tears in their eyes is so overwhelming," she added.

The eligibility criteria, as established by the California Education Code, are:

- Individuals who served in WWII – December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946; the Korean War – June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955; or the Vietnam War – February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975; and were honorably discharged from their military service.

- Individuals interned in a relocation camp from September 16, 1940, to December 31, 1946.

- All recipients must have been enrolled in a high school before enlistment or internment and been unable to receive their diploma due to their enlistment or internment.

Interested individuals may apply through January 14, 2022. Parties needing assistance with the required military service documentation may contact the Santa Barbara County Veterans Service Office at 805-681-4500 or 805-346-7160.

Completed applications may be emailed to or mailed to the Santa Barbara County Education Office, Attn: Valerie Cantella, P.O. Box 6307, Santa Barbara, CA 93160-6307.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 10 Golden Mike Awards, 5 Los Angeles Press Club Awards, 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards and a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for eleven years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.