NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A very special graduation took place Wednesday as a mother and daughter who immigrated from South America got their college diplomas together.
It was graduation day for nearly 2,000 students from William Paterson University.
Among them, 46-year-old Sandra Murillo and her 25-year-old daughter, Katherinn.
When Sandra immigrated from Colombia to the U.S. in 1996 she couldn’t bring two-year-old Katherinn with her due to a custody battle with her ex-husband.
“I think that was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to endure,” Sandra Murillo said.
It took 10 years for Sandra to be able to bring Katherinn to the United States, when her daughter was 12.
“I always say to her we will be together and when we get together it will be for good,” the mother said.
Katherinn took up cosmetology, but didn’t like it.
“This is not what I want to do but I don’t want to go to college either. I was just kind of lost,” Katherinn said.
“I always encourage her and I say to her ‘listen, the only way you can open doors is educating yourself,’” her mother added.
Sandra earned her associates degree from Bergen Community College and Katherinn followed suit. When mom started her bachelors at William Paterson, Katherinn once again followed and attended summer school to catch up with her mother.
“She’s been through so much that I just can’t let her down. She’s my rock and I look at her and I’m like I can do whatever it is that I want to do and I set my mind to do,” Katherinn added.
CBS2 was at the graduation and watched Katherinn and Sandra walk the stage at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“It feels great! We did it and we did it together!” the mother and college graduate told CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.
In the next few months, Sandra and Katherinn plan to move to Florida to be closer to family in Colombia, while continuing to pursue their dreams.
Sandra plans to go into public health and Katherinn is looking into law enforcement.