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‘From that moment, I promised to never let you down again’: Following the death of his brother, man turns his life around to surprise his parents by graduating after being suspended from college

By Luke Kenton Following the tragic death of his brother, this boy lost sight of his academic pursuits - but after turning himself around following a suspension from college, he surprised his family at his own graduation. After the death of his older brother, in 2011, a then-17-year-old Hanss Mujica witnessed the haunting ‘vacant stare’ of his bereaved parents coming to terms with the loss of their much-loved son. But just a four years later, after being suspended from college for a failure to apply himself to his studies, Hanss was on the receiving end of the same disappointed look – a gaze that he admits "broke him." Vowing to never let his parents down again, Hanss worked nearly full-time alongside his studies for two years in order to fund his tuition at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where, in spring 2018, the 24-year-old was told he’d finally be graduating. Keeping the news secret from his parents for two months, the criminal justice and psychology student lured his parents - Mario and Carmen Mujica, both 53 - along with younger sister, Aylin, to his campus, on May 6, under the guise of a course-related family photoshoot. But after being handed a heartfelt letter declaring his plan to make them proud once more, Carmen and a usually stoic Mario broke down in tears when the second envelope given to them revealed two tickets to Hanss’ graduation. Standing behind them, clad in a cap and gown and holding a sign reading ‘Gracias Mama y Papa’, the family lock into an emotional embrace to celebrate their son’s incredible achievement. Overwhelmed by his parent’s reaction, graduate Hanss said: “I was very nervous but so excited to see their reactions – I was worried they might turn around too soon. “I was not expecting my father to cry – he’s a very tough man and rarely expresses his emotions. “It had been a secret I’d been hiding for about two months, and once I received the green light that I’d be graduating, I began to devise my plan that had been on hold for several years. “It meant everything for me to see them react with the pride that they did. “I knew at that moment that all the sleepless nights; the facing my fear of heights to work a job in scaffolding; staying long hours in the library – it had all been worth it. “It had been a surprise some six years in the making, and I wouldn’t have wanted to announce it any other way.” After tragically losing his 21-year-old brother, Edward, in a car accident, on October 24, 2011, Hanss saw a steep decline in his academic focus at high school – a complacent mentality that continued into university studies. Falling behind on coursework and failing to study for his tests, Hanss was eventually suspended from Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2015, cancelling his financial aid funding. Haunted by the hollow disappointed reaction of his recently bereaved parents, Hanss made a pledge to himself to turn his life around and graduate from University to restore his parent’s pride. Hanss said: “When my parents found out I’d been suspended, the look on their faces completely broke my heart. “Their faces were filled with utter disappointment and sadness – the last time I saw that expression was when they found out my older brother had passed away. “From that moment on I told myself I would do anything to never see that look in their face again. “I went back to school with a whole different perspective and paid out of my own pocket to fund my studies as well as paying back the loans I’d already taken out. “I even got a job in scaffolding, which wasn’t the best idea as I’m terrified of heights. “With help from my amazing friends and the university, I was able to return in spring 2016. “My parents never knew when I was going to graduate – I always told them soon, but never when. “People always tell you the cliché that hard work pays off in the end, but until you live it you can never understand how true it is. “My parents were beyond proud of my success as they knew everything I put myself through to get there. “My father hugged me and told me that this was the ‘greatest gift’ anyone had ever given him – that meant so much. “We are all faced with adversity at some point in our lives, but it’s how we persevere through it all that defines our character.”
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