Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather Rene Neira, now 88, both graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) December 11, 2021.
He took classes occasionally throughout the years, but decided to work towards his goal of getting his college degree.
He enrolled again in 2016, the same year his granddaughter started her freshman year.
“It just so happened that he wanted to go back to school again at the same time that I was starting.” Salazar told CNN. “It wasn’t intentionally planned, but it just worked out that way that we were in school at the same time.”
The pair began classes in the spring of 2016 at Palo Alto College, and later transferred to UTSA together.
Salazar said they never shared a class together because of their differing majors, but from time to time would share lunch together, meet up at the library to work on homework, and even carpool to campus.
He was only a few classes shy of completing his degree, and his family was determined to get him the college degree he’s always wanted.
“We, as his family, were able to advocate for him and request to see if there was any way that he could be recognized or honored for all the work that he had done.” Salazar told CNN.
It wasn’t until the week of graduation they found out he would be honored.
“It was definitely an early Christmas miracle that they were willing to recognize him.” Salazar said.
The duo was met with many cheers from family, friends and fellow classmates as Salazar pushed Neira across the stage to get their degrees.
“When we walked past the curtains onto the stage, I was overcome with emotion and started to tear up because I didn’t know that we would actually get to share that moment together.” Salazar said, “I told him afterwards, ‘You did it, grandpa! College is over!'”
Salazar received her Bachelor of Arts in communications, while Neira got a degree of recognition in economics.
Unfortunately, Neira is now terminally ill and in hospice.
“It’s never too late to go back to school.” Salazar shares. “Whatever your circumstance, there’s people that are ready and willing to help you follow your dreams.”