Mahwah, NJ

Doggie Degree! Meet Justin, the New Jersey Service Dog Earning a College Diploma alongside his Wheelchair-Bound Owner

Carl Belen
Grace Mariani from Mahwah, New Jersey, was accompanied by Justin throughout her time at Seton Hall - and the Labrador-golden retriever was rPhoto bySeton Hall/Twitter

In a delightful turn of events, a New Jersey college student's service dog received a college diploma of his own after faithfully attending all his owner's classes. Grace Mariani, a Mahwah resident and wheelchair user, was accompanied throughout her college journey at Seton Hall by Justin, her steadfast Labrador-Golden Retriever mix. Celebrating his dedication and commitment, Seton Hall rewarded Justin with his own diploma, acknowledging his role in Grace's academic journey.

Justin, the star of a heartwarming video, was seen marching proudly alongside Grace as they both received their diplomas from college president Joseph E. Nyre. The audience was enthralled, witnessing Justin sniff the diploma and then gleefully take it in his mouth. The cheers of the crowd filled the hall as the pair made their triumphant exit, marking a milestone in their shared journey.

Seton Hall's social media tribute highlighted Justin's unwavering support: "Seton Hall President Joseph E. Nyre, Ph.D. presents Justin, the service dog for Grace Mariani, of Mahwah, NJ, with a diploma for attending all of Grace’s classes at Seton Hall."

The internet exploded with admiration for the duo. One supporter wrote: "This is awesome!", while another commented: "You're both great. Congratulations." A third chimed in, saying: "OMG! I love it! Justin certainly deserved a diploma too."

Canine Companions, the organization that matched Grace with Justin, shared her initial dream of attending college and becoming a teacher. Grace had always believed that Justin would give her the best chance of leading a successful, independent life.

These inspiring stories don't stop there. Another instance of commendable resilience and triumph unfolded in Virginia, where Khalil Watson, a paralyzed shooting victim, walked across the stage with a robotic exoskeleton to collect his community college diploma. The crowd gave a standing ovation, applauding his exceptional achievement. Stories like these underscore the power of determination, courage, and companionship in overcoming life's challenges.

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