(WCBS 880) — Graduation day at William Paterson University was a family affair Wednesday for a mother and daughter who received their degrees together.
After coming to the U.S. from Colombia, Sandra Murillo worked cleaning boats, selling flowers, bartending, babysitting and more.
Now at age 46, she is a college graduate.
"Isn't that an amazing experience?" she said.
To make this even more satisfying, her fellow William Paterson grad is her daughter, Katherinn Lopez Murillo.
"It means the world because it was so unexpected honestly and it was just so overwhelming," Katherinn added.
Mother and daughter were separated for nearly 10 years, with Sandra in the U.S., while Katherinn was with her grandparents in Colombia.
"My grandparents always told me, 'Your mom's working for your future, don't feel like she left you,'" Katherinn said.
"I always said to her, 'I promise you, one day you're going to be with me and the day that you're with me we will never separate,'" Sandra said.
Now, they're graduating together.
Sandra said she couldn't have done it without her daughter. "She is the one who gave me the strength to continue and don't give up," she said.
Katherinn is 25 and didn’t think she was cut out for college.
"She was my motivation. I just couldn't let her down. After all her struggles I just couldn't see myself disappointing her," she said. "She always said if you don't educate yourself you're not going to go anywhere in life."
Katherinn majored in criminal justice and her mom in public health.