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Kean University

Mother and Daughter Share Kean University Commencement

The smiling mother and daughter pose in front of Kean Hall.

Berzayda and Minerva Sandoval, (L-R), share a smile before Kean Commencement. The mother, Berzayda, and daughter, Minerva, are graduating together.

Berzayda and Minerva Sandoval have a special reason to celebrate at Kean Commencement. Not just graduates and classmates, they are peers, friends, supporters of each other — and mother and daughter. 

Berzayda and her daughter, Minerva, will each earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at Kean Undergraduate Commencement on May 16. Both transferred to Kean after earning their associate degrees at Union College. Minerva enrolled in the Fall 2021 and earned her Kean degree in January, while her mother entered the University in the Fall 2022 and will earn her degree this month. 

Both Berzayda and Minerva consider themselves first-generation students, being the first in their family to graduate from college.

“I’m originally from Nicaragua,” Berzayda said. “I saw the degree as a way of trying to build a better life for ourselves. Because she's doing it in tandem as well, we can build something together and help each other out. I feel like Kean has provided that social mobility for us.” 

While pursuing their degrees, the two lived together, saw each other in classes and on campus, and even took a class together. Getting the same degree at the same time, Berzayda emphasized the advantages of having a consistent system of support throughout her education. 

“We talk to each other, bounce ideas off of each other about schoolwork,” Berzayda said. “But she also helps me get my ideas out better, so I try to do the same for her. She’s like my own personal Grammarly.” 

Minerva echoed her mother’s sentiment. 

“It was like going to school with an older sister,” Minerva said. “We helped each other with our classes and told each other which professors were good and which classes were interesting. I had a friend, emotional support, and mother all in one.” 

Berzayda has fond memories of participating in Project Adelante at Kean as a child growing up in Elizabeth. The summer program, started in 1988, is designed to encourage local Latino children and teens to pursue higher education. 

“It comes full circle,” Berzayda said. “I didn't know that I was going to be coming back. It’s like oh, wow, now I’m going to graduate from this place that enriched my life as a kid.” 

The mother-daughter pair said they are nervous but excited to walk together at Commencement, and are looking forward to celebrating their achievement with family and friends. 

“My grandma, she was really proud of us,” Minerva said. “Because every time we mentioned school, she's like, ‘Oh, I'm so glad you guys are getting an education. I could never do that when I was young. It's something I really want for you.’” 

Next, the pair will enter the workforce together. Berzayda wants to work helping her local community. Minerva was recently offered a position as a career counselor for Union County’s One-Stop Career Center, guiding individuals on their career paths with training, skill development and resume building. She plans to pursue her Master’s in Human Behavior and Organizational Psychology at Kean in the future.

“It was a delightful experience to see my daughter shine in an academic setting,” Berzayda said. “It gave me a sense of pride and admiration for her exceptional qualities. And the fact that she was offered that job, I'm so proud of her.” 

In the fall, Berzayda’s younger daughter, Jade Nelson, will carry on the family tradition and attend Kean.

Overall, the mother and daughter said they are both happy they got to go through college with the support of a loved one. 

“We started at different times, but we helped each other, and we're finally at the finish line,” Minerva said. “We did this together.”