The graduation ceremony at New Jersey's Seton Hall University was marked by an emotional and tender moment after a student's service dog appeared among the thousands of graduates who received their diplomas.
Justin, a 6-year-old service dog for graduate student Grace Mariani, wagged his tail as he walked across the stage at the Prudential Center in Newark on May 22, as can be seen in a video posted to the University's Twitter account.
Mariani's four-legged companion, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, wore a blue cap and matching neckerchief from the Class of 2023 as he sniffed at the diploma presented to him by Seton Hall President Joseph E. Nyre, as shown in the video.
The tender moment was accompanied by applause from the crowd of families and graduates who celebrated that Mariani, who crossed the stage in a motorized wheelchair with his faithful friend, managed to such an important goal.
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. pic.twitter.com/sZgHD5Fs3X— Seton Hall (@SetonHall) May 23, 2023
The service dog from the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence received a diploma for attending all of Mariani's Seton Hall classes, the university said via Twitter.
Justin is Mariani's second service dog from Canine Companions, according to Jeanine Konopelski, the nonprofit's vice president of marketing and advocacy.
Our client, Grace and her Canine Companions #servicedog Justin graduated from @SetonHall, and now, the entire country is cheering them on! Congratulations, Grace and Justin! ðŸŽ“ðŸ¦® #graduation #graduation2023 #setonhall #LeadWithIndependence @TODAYshow @nbc https://t.co/AaZuyRw3FO— Canine Companions® (@canineorg) May 25, 2023
“When Grace was paired with Canine Companions service dog Justin, she said her dream was to go to college and become a teacher,” Konopelski said in an email to CNN.
“She shared that with Justin by her side, she has the best chance at a successful and independent life,” Konopelski said.
Justin has learned over 45 tasks to help Mariani become more independent. The young woman graduated with a Bachelor of Science in education and plans to teach elementary and special education.