87-Yr-Old Walks The Graduation Stage Next To His 23-Yr-Old Granddaughter.

Most young people who are graduating from college look forward to spotting their loved ones, especially their grandparents, smiling in the crowd.

That wasn’t the case for Melanie Salazar and her grandfather, Rene Neira, though. Rene, who is now 88 years old, has been trying to earn his college degree since the 1950s, but life, love, and children happened, and he was never able to finish his studies.

That is, until he and his granddaughter enrolled first at Palo Alto College and then at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Not only were they on the same campus at times, but the grandfather-granddaughter duo even became study buddies!

“There were times when we would get lunch together, be in the library together, and just work silently side-by-side,” Melanie said.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Rene had stroke and had to take a medical leave. By the time he recovered, classes had moved online, a process that was too difficult for Rene to manage. As a result, he was left only a few classes short of his long-desired diploma.

Luckily, his family intervened! They asked if there was anything to be done, and just before Christmas, they found out he would be honored at graduation – along with Melanie!

After years of hard work, Melanie and Rene got to cross the commencement stage together. Melanie earned her bachelor’s degree in communication, while Rene earned a degree of recognition in economics. Just in time, too, because Rene was later diagnosed with a terminal illness and placed in hospice care.

“I wanted to cry out of happiness, that I was able to have that memory, and really because I’m so really proud of my grandpa knowing and seeing how hard he has to work,” Melanie said.

Everyone broke out in cheers and applause as the two of them accepted their diplomas. Even their university congratulated them!

“Congratulations, Rene & Melanie,” the University of Texas-San Antonio wrote on Facebook. “Welcome to the UTSA Alumni family.”

We’re certainly proud of both of them, and we may have even shed a few tears at their story. Don’t forget to share their journey to honor all their hard work and dedication.

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