A 23-year-old Texas woman celebrated her college commencement ceremony with a special guest: her 88-year-old grandfather who also graduated the same day.
The sweet moment happened at the University of Texas-San Antonio commencement ceremony on Dec. 11. The woman, Melanie Salazar, graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. At the same time, Salazar’s grandfather, Rene Neira, received a degree of recognition in economics.
For the pair, the degrees are the culmination of the duo attending college together. Salazar and Neira first became viral sensations in 2016 when Salazar posted on social media her grandfather was attending Palo Alto College in San Antonio. Salazar told ABC News at the time that Neira was in the process of receiving his associate’s degree from the community college and then planned to attend UTSA to receive his bachelor’s degree.
Now, the two were able to cross the graduation stage together.
“Since the 1950s, he has been working toward his bachelor’s degree and it has been one of his life goals and dreams,” Salazar told ABC News. “But in the ’50s he fell in love and got married and started a family, so he wasn’t able to continue school right away.”
Salazar said the past few years had been challenging for her grandfather. Just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said Neira suffered a minor stroke and took a medical leave of absence from school.
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ValleyCentral News reported Neira was a few credits short of getting his degree, but the university gave him a degree in recognition since he is terminally ill and in hospice care.
Salazar said when the two walked on the stage together, she was overcome with emotion as the crowd applauded them.
“I told him, ‘This is our moment. I want to share it with you,'” she said. “I’m so proud of my grandpa and I’m so thankful I was able to have this moment, this memory, with him.”
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