© Instagram Melanie Salazara
This duo shares more than just a blood bond … Melanie Salazara, 23, and her grandfather Tene Neira, 88, graduated from the University of Texas at San antonio (UTSA) December 11, 2021.
Tene Neira began studying in the 1950s, but fell in love and began his family life, ending his studies. He took classes occasionally over the years, but decided to study gradually towards a college degree.
He re-enrolled at university in 2016, the same year as Melanie Salazara to begin his first year. “He happened to want to resume his studies when I was starting“, explained the young woman to CNN. “It wasn’t planned, but it just worked out so that we were in college at the same time“.
The duo started classes during the spring semester 2016 at Palo Alto College, but was then transferred to theUTSA ensemble. They never shared classes, but got together to study, share lunch, or carpool to campus. Melanie got his bachelor’s degree in communication, while his grandfather got a degree in economics.
But the grandfather of Melanie suffered a stroke just before the start of the pandemic, which forced him to take medical leave from college. Then, the transition to digital learning was too much for him to manage.
However, she only had a few courses left to complete her degree, and her family were determined to help her complete it. “We as a family were able to advocate for him and ask to see if there was a way to recognize or honor him for all the work he had done.“, said Melanie.
On graduation week, the family learned that the grandfather would be honored. “The fact that they agreed to admit him was a real Christmas miracle“, she says.
As Salazar pushed his grandfather onto the platform, his family, friends and classmates cheered them on.
“When we passed the curtains on the stage, I was overcome with emotion and started to cry because I didn’t know we were really going to be able to share this moment together. I told him after the fact: “You did it, grandpa! University is over!“
Sadly, Tene is now terminally ill and in palliative care.
“It’s never too late to go back to school “, valued Melanie. “Whatever your situation, there are people who are ready and willing to help you pursue your dreams.“