This graduation weekend at the University of Arizona, families in town will celebrate the hard work their loved ones put in to get their degrees.

For one father and daughter duo, the moment will be twice as special, as they mark this educational milestone together.

“I’m still getting used to the idea that we’re actually going to walk, be at the same ceremonies at the same time and receiving our degrees at the same time,” Guillermo Meraz said.

Meraz’ journey started with a dream after high school, deferred because his dad couldn’t afford to send him to college. “(He told me) you have to just buckle down, work and make things happen,” Meraz said, reflecting on his father’s words.

“When I did that, I did that for about 10 years. I concentrated on just work. When I turned 30, I realized, ‘You know what? It’s not working.'”

Fast forward several years after that realization, and Meraz received his bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix, when his daughter, Yesenia, was 8 years old.

Still, that investment in his personal growth left Meraz with thousands of dollars in student debt. However, with his job as a website manager to Univ. of Arizona’s information technolgy (IT) services, Meraz seized the advantage of discounted tuition to earn his Master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Eller College of Management.

That financial advantage also opened a path for Meraz to pay for his children to go school, as well. Yesenia will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in studio art, while Guillermo Jr. is still earning his undergraduate degree.

“When (my dad) started working here,” Yesenia said, “he was like, ‘I’m going to attend school with you, both you and your older brother.”

Yesenia’s journey in college started with an unorthodox freshman year, staying at home in the heart of COVID-19 quarantines. “Then,” she said, “my sophomore year it took a little adjustment, and then my junior year, is when I finally got the hang of it; getting back to a routine of waking up, and having to commute to school and get all my work done.”

While dad and daughter didn’t take any classes together, they could always check in on each other at the dinner table and find more support in their immediate family.

“I would go to (Dad) and be like, ‘I’m so stressed out about this,’ and he’s like, ‘It’s fine. It’s not the end of the world.'”

“We’ll sit down and literally bounce off ideas off of each other, then within an hour… after dinner… she comes up with a theme, a project and she’s like, ‘OK. I’m ready to go’ and we run with it.'”

Guillermo SR. said he will look to his daughter’s artistic eye and technological know-how, as he now prepares to restart his printing and coaster company, Creative Monkeys, as a true family venture.

“It was inspired by my two creative monkeys (in 2018) my two kids, since they’re both going for art degrees,” he said.

“I’m making sure that I celebrate my kids, because that is a big accomplishment for them to do, and I’m very humbled by the fact that we get to share this together.”

The dynamic duo said their respective educational journeys aren’t over yet. Yesenia wants to earn her master’s in marketing, while she also helps the company grow and connect with potential clients on social media.

Guillermo Sr. wants to see if he can squeeze in another course or certification, so he can celebrate another commencement weekend alongside his son.