Granddaughter and Her Terminally Ill Grandfather, 87, Graduate College Together

Ayesha Muhammad
Dec 17, 2021
06:00 P.M.
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A San Antonio grandfather-granddaughter duo who went viral in 2016 for being classmates at the same college is making headlines again after graduating from the same university. 


Age is just a number, particularly for those with high ambitions. The same is true for 87-old year Rene Neira, who earned his bachelor's degree last Saturday. Surprisingly, 23-year-old Melanie Salazar also collected her degree on the same day. 

But Neira and Salazar have a lot more in common than graduating on the same day from the same institution. Their phenomenal story of completing education together proves that it's never too late to pursue one's goals. 

Melanie Salazar and Rene Neira on their graduation day at UTSA. | Photo:



On Saturday, December 11, 2021, Salazar wheeled her grandfather, Neira, through the graduation ceremony at The University of Texas at San Antonio. The lovely duo was showered with love, praise, and affection from the faculty and students.

UTSA also tweeted about the commencement ceremony, posting two adorable pictures of Neira and Salazar graduating side by side. Even better was when the acclaimed institution called the duo "family goals."

Salazar earned her BA degree in Communications, while Neira received his BA Economics diploma. Both looked vibrant and happy in their graduation gowns and caps. 



However, this isn't the first time the grandpa and granddaughter have made headlines. In 2016, Salazar tweeted a picture of her grandpa on his first day of class at Palo Alto College, San Antonio, Texas. 

Neira shared his aspirations to complete a university degree in 2016, and he finally made it happen this year. 

Salazar was a freshman then, and Neira was enrolled in his last class required to complete his associate's degree in economics. Their story went viral and was even featured on BuzzFeed News. 



Neira attended St. Mary's University in the 1950s but put his studies on hold after meeting his wife and starting a family. He took a class here and there, but he decided to resume education full-time after his wife's death in 2009. He also shared:

"Sometimes I wonder, what in the world is an 82-year old doing, going to college? But somehow, something keeps me going. I think it keeps me mentally alert, too."

The young student drew inspiration from her grandfather's example, a son of immigrants, and took part in the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Neira was also involved in politics and community service. 



Salazar shared that her grandfather encouraged her to complete her education and often walked her to classes. She also helped him with his online courses. The young student calls her grandpa her "best friend." 

Cafe College, a free resource for higher education, confirmed that Neira has been taking their help since 2017. Neira shared his aspirations to complete a university degree in 2016, and he finally made it happen this year. 

Despite being terminally ill and in hospice care, Neira's passion for education is proof that determination and commitment can take us miles. Congratulations to this fantastic grandpa-granddaughter duo! 


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