CHICAGO - A grandmother and granddaughter graduated together from Chicago State University on Thursday.
Grandmother Belinda Berry, who is 62 years old, and granddaughter Karea Berry, who is 25 years old, waited nervously in the Raucous Jones Convocation Center for their names to be called.
"It was never planned, we both enrolled in school and we didn't know we were going to finish together because I was full-time and she was part-time, and it just worked out that way," said Karea.
Belinda walked first, followed by Karea.
"I have always stressed that education is power," said Belinda, who went back to school part-time to improve her employment prospects.
Belinda was top of her class, creating some friendly competition for her granddaughter while earning her bachelors degree in business.
"She graduated with a 3.8 GPA and health issues during her last two semesters and so for her to come out on top even more than me is amazing, so she is my inspiration," said Karea, who graduated with a bachelors degree in criminal justice.
"I am very honored to be a role model and I hope that I am an inspiration to the young as well as the old, because it is never too late to pursue an education," Belinda said.
Karea will start in CSU's Masters in Mental Health Counseling Program in 2018. Belinda is also pursuing a masters, in business.
Their joint triumph is a highlight for a school that has suffered financially, but strives to live up to its mission to make higher education accessible.
"Diversity is valuable not just for the sake of diversity, but for what it engenders for each of the students," said Rachel Lindsey, interim president of Chicago State University.
In CSU's 150 years, this is the 361st graduation ceremony, but the first time a grandmother and granddaughter have graduated together.