It's a season of celebration at college campuses across South Florida as students mark their academic accomplishments. The moment of pride shared with loved ones, friends and professors. For twin sisters Tiffany and Eileen Gomez, it's a moment of triumph after years of trials and tribulations.
In the sea of navy blue caps at Monday's commencement ceremony at Florida International University, Tiffany and Eileen stand out because of their story of struggle.
Overwhelmed with emotion, the twin sisters walked across the FIU stage together, both with heavy hearts knowing their mom and dad could not cheer them on from the crowd. The sisters' mother passed away when they were only four years old. They were raised by their father, Vito. Sadly, a terminal illness took his life two years ago. The sisters had to take over their father's business, Vito's Bakery, while continuing their studies. "Today was significant for me because aside from graduating for my father and myself, I was walking for my sister as well because she was not able to walk for her graduation," said Tiffany.
She received the resignation of the "Worlds Ahead" graduate - which is awarded by FIU to individuals with strong leadership qualities, a desire to change lives and a record of academic achievement.
Tiffany's twin sister, Eileen, graduated in 2013, but she wasn't able to walk across the stage because at the time, their father had fallen ill. FIU's faculty made sure Monday's ceremony was extra special for the twins. "The twins became bakers, business owners and caretakers at the same time they continued pursuing their degrees," said FIU President Dr. Mark Rosenberg.
The sisters say they know their parents are watching from above as they marked the major milestone. After graduation, the twins plan to continue running their dad's bakery.