Rosa Elisa Salgado poses for a photo at the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College after an interview, on May 4, 2015, in downtown Miami.
Wilfredo Lee—AP
May 6, 2015 3:05 PM EDT

Rosa Salgado fulfilled her long-held American dream this past weekend—right alongside her two grandchildren.

The 79-year-old Colombian immigrant donned a cap and gown Saturday to receive her associate of arts in education degree from Miami Dade College, the same day two of her grandchildren received their diplomas from the same institution, reports the Miami Herald.

“My grandchildren, my family, they’ve grown up watching my activity and they are going to learn and fight in life and overcome obstacles,” Salgado, who graduated with honors, told the paper.

The degree is the payoff of a journey Salgado began two decades earlier when she arrived in Miami knowing little English, but determined to create a better life for herself and her family.

According to NBC Miami, the mother of three learned English, enrolled in school and took a job at Miami Dade College’s child care center, at times taking five bus routes to get to school and work via public transportation.

She also suffered a setback 10 years ago when her youngest daughter fell into a coma after an accident, and Salgado needed to reduce her course load to care for her.

“She had some personal setbacks and she beat them all and she’s here graduating. I’m very proud of her,” Sara Bulnes, one of her former professors, told the Herald.

Her family is also proud of the almost-octogenarian.

David Salgado, who graduated with the same degree as his grandmother, told NBC Miami, “For me and my family, for her to take this one step graduating, it fills my heart.”

With degree in hand, Salgado says she plans to head to work, ideally writing children’s books.

“I’m very happy,” she beamed. “Thanks to everybody who helped me.”

This article originally appeared on People.

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