A 23-year-old Texas girl and her 88-year-old grandfather are starting 2022 as new college graduates.
Melanie Salazar, from San Antonio, graduated on December 11 with a BA in Communications. He did it at the same time as his grandfather, Rene Neira, who collected his diploma in Economics.
Salazar and Neira began their journey into higher education together at a San Antonio community college, Palo Alto College, in 2016. Melanie had just finished high school and her grandfather, then 82, decided to go back to class to fulfill your lifelong dream of earning your bachelor’s degree, as Salazar explained.
“Since the 1950s it has been one of his goals and dreams in life,” says the granddaughter.
“But in the 1950s she fell in love, got married and started a family, so she couldn’t continue her studies.”
Salazar told ‘Good Morning America’ that his grandfather, who turned 88 on December 17, attended some college classes when he could for decades, balancing his roles as a husband, father of five and his job at a local bank.
A few years ago, they both enrolled at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where they never had a class together, but would share the road trip and study together.
ICYMI: Something very special happened this weekend at #UTSA Commencement: Rene Neira, 87, crossed the stage with his granddaughter, Melanie Salazar. She received her B.A. in Comms. He will earn his B.A. in Economics. Family goals!
– UTSA (@UTSA) December 13, 2021
“We would eat together and we would be in the library together and we would just quietly work side by side,” Melanie explains. But just before the pandemic, Neira suffered a stroke mild and had to take medical leave. When the pandemic forced classes to be taught online, Neira continued to be absent due to her health.
As graduation day approached in December, Salazar says she and her family asked university officials to grant Neira a degree of recognition, which they did. Over the past year, Neira’s health has continued to deteriorate and she now has difficulty speaking. But this did not prevent him from going to graduation to collect his recognition with his granddaughter.
“I was definitely inspired by my grandfather,” says Melanie. “Through hearing loss, not having a car, taking public transportation, defending himself on campus, I really admired his drive, his strength and perseverance to keep going no matter what.”