LAREDO, Texas (KGNS/CNN) - A Texas high school graduate’s dedication to her father has gone viral after he was not able to attend the ceremony to watch her get her diploma.
Sarai Ruiz celebrated her accomplishment of graduating from Hector Garcia Early College High School, but someone was missing from the crowd.
“My whole life I had thought that my whole family was going to be there,” Ruiz said. “Unfortunately, my dad couldn’t be there because he can’t cross.”
Ruiz says he's been out of the country since she was just a baby.
“When I was about 4 years old, my dad was deported,” she said. “It was just me and my mom in my hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.”
Wanting to be closer to her father, Ruiz and her mother moved to Laredo and later found a difficult but effective way to be together once again.
"It’s hard to wake up early, like at 5 a.m. just so you can cross and go to school, and then cross back in the afternoon," she said.
Her diploma was the result of her hard work and dedication.
"Right after I graduated, I decided to see my dad at the bridge," Ruiz said.
The embrace was captured by her cousin. Ruiz wanted to share it with loved ones.
"I wanted my whole other family to see it, and some of my friends to also see it as well," she said.
Ruiz had no idea the video would go viral like it did on Facebook having been shared more than 20,000 times.
Some have even reached out to her with similar experiences.
“[People] started sending me messages that they were proud that I didn’t forget where I came from, and that they were going through the same situation,” Ruiz said.
Jose Eduardo Iznaola, the early college high school principal, said Ruiz's success is due to her perseverance.
"It's a story of resilience, of grit, of thinking that nothing is impossible," said Iznaola.
Besides a big hug on the bridge, her father shared something more with her that night.
“He said that ‘nobody could ever separate us, that only God could separate us.' That will forever be engraved in my mind,” Ruiz said.
Their video on Facebook has now been shared 24,000, and reached more than 2.3 million views.