A 23-year-old woman from Texas is graduating this year along with her grandfather from the University of Texas.
Melanie Salazar, 23, from San Antonio graduated from the University of Texas on December 11 with a degree in communications. She shared this momentous occasion with her 88-year-old grandfather, Rene Neira, who graduated from the same University with a degree of recognition in Economics, according to Good Morning America. Salazar expresses her extreme delight by saying, "When we were on stage, I felt like I was overcome with emotion. Everything was silent. I didn't hear any clapping or applause but I was told that the whole stadium erupted." She started her higher education together with her grandfather in 2016 when they both enrolled in the San Antonio Community College in 2016, as per Good Morning America.
"We would get lunch together and be in the library together and just work silently side-by-side. There were also many times where I drove him to school during the seasons when he didn't have his car." https://t.co/SwTwJ2jE2B— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) December 27, 2021
Salazar told ABC News that her grandfather was in the process of receiving his associate's degree from the community college and they planned to attend the University of Texas for their bachelor's degree together. Salazar says, "Since the 1950s, he has been working toward his bachelor's degree and it has been one of his life goals and dreams." She adds while talking to 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." She says that her grandfather struggled to continue with his education as he had to play all his roles as a husband, father, a community activist all while doing a full-time job in a bank.
They both enrolled in the University of Texas, San Antonio in 2017. Though their classes were not together due to their different disciplines, they would study in the library and drive to classes together at times. Salazar adds, "We would get lunch together and be in the library together and just work silently side-by-side." She even says that Neira would come to her meetings to cheer her up when she was the president of one of the clubs in college.
Melanie Salazar wasn't alone when she graduated from University of Texas, San Antonio.— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) December 27, 2021
She was joined by her 88-year-old grandfather. https://t.co/cdgOsoRaEP
Right before the coronavirus pandemic struck the world, Neira suffered a minor stroke and had to take a medical leave from school. When the teaching was shifted online, he continued with his leave as he had difficulty navigating the online structure of teaching and his health wasn't in great shape. Over the past year, his health has been on a decline to a point that he now has difficulty even speaking. Salazar and her family requested the University to grant him a degree of recognition so that he can preserve this memory of his lifelong dream before passing away and they did.
Neira, whose parents were immigrants from Mexico, is an integral part of the San Antonio community. He was very active in the Chicano movement and has been actively involved in building up the economy of the City's south side. Salazar is extremely proud of what her grandfather has accomplished. "Through hearing loss, not having a car, taking public transportation, advocating for himself on campus, I really admired his ganas, which is like strength or perseverance, to keep going no matter what."
Salazar aims to work for a non-profit and says that she is completely inspired by her grandfather's presence and honored to share her graduation with him. She states, "I told him, 'This is our moment. I want to share it with you,' I'm so proud of my grandpa and I'm so thankful I was able to have this moment, this memory, with him."
Cover Image Source: University of Texas at San Antonio