Terminally ill grandfather graduates college side-by-side with granddaughter

Melanie Salazar and her grandfather, Rene Neira, graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio December 11, 2021.

(CNN)One Texas grandfather-granddaughter duo share more than just a family tree now. They were able to graduate from college together, side-by-side.

Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather Rene Neira, now 88, both graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) December 11, 2021.
Neira started school in the 1950s, Salazar told CNN, but then fell in love and started a life for his family. He never got around to finishing school in the traditional 4-year span.
He took classes occasionally throughout the years, but decided to work towards his goal of getting his college degree.
He enrolled again in 2016, the same year his granddaughter started her freshman year.
"It just so happened that he wanted to go back to school again at the same time that I was starting." Salazar told CNN. "It wasn't intentionally planned, but it just worked out that way that we were in school at the same time."
"I didn't know that we would actually get to share that moment together," Melanie Salazar told CNN.
The pair began classes in the spring of 2016 at Palo Alto College, and later transferred to UTSA together.
Salazar said they never shared a class together because of their differing majors, but from time to time would share lunch together, meet up at the library to work on homework, and even carpool to campus.
Neira suffered from a stroke just before the Covid-19 pandemic and had to take a medical leave from classes. Then the pandemic forced campuses to close and he was unable to navigate the world of online classes.
He was only a few classes shy of completing his degree, and his family was determined to get him the college degree he's always wanted.
"We, as his family, were able to advocate for him and request to see if there was any way that he could be recognized or honored for all the work that he had done." Salazar told CNN.
It wasn't until the week of graduation they found out he would be honored.
"It was definitely an early Christmas miracle that they were willing to recognize him." Salazar said.
The duo was met with many cheers from family, friends and fellow classmates as Salazar pushed Neira across the stage to get their degrees.
Salazar pushed Neira across the graduation stage to accept their college degrees.
"When we walked past the curtains onto the stage, I was overcome with emotion and started to tear up because I didn't know that we would actually get to share that moment together." Salazar said, "I told him afterwards, 'You did it, grandpa! College is over!'"
Salazar received her Bachelor of Arts in communications, while Neira got a degree of recognition in economics.
Unfortunately, Neira is now terminally ill and in hospice.
"It's never too late to go back to school." Salazar shares. "Whatever your circumstance, there's people that are ready and willing to help you follow your dreams."