A special, four-legged friend was among the thousands of graduates receiving a diploma at the commencement ceremony for New Jersey’s Seton Hall University.
Justin, a 6-year-old service dog for graduating student Grace Mariani, wagged his tail as he walked across the stage at the Prudential Center in Newark on May 22, a video from the university’s Twitter page showed.
The labrador-golden retriever mix wore a blue mortar board and matching Class of 2023 bandana as he sniffed the diploma Seton Hall president Joseph E. Nyre presented him, the video showed.
The crowd of families and graduates loudly cheered as Justin grabbed the diploma with his mouth while accompanying Mariani, who crossed the stage in a motorized wheelchair.
Justin is Mariani’s second service dog from Canine Companions, according to Jeanine Konopelski, the nonprofit’s vice president of marketing and advocacy.
“When Grace was matched with Canine Companions service dog Justin, she said her dream was to go away to college and become a teacher,” Konopelski said in an email to CNN.
“She shared that with Justin by her side, she has the best chance for a successful, independent life,” Konopelski said.
Justin has learned over 45 tasks to help Mariani become more independent, according to Konopelski.
Mariani graduated with a bachelor of science degree in education and plans to teach elementary and special education, CNN affiliate WCBS-TV reported.