Moments Away, Miles Apart

by Laura Castro-Spencer on May 27, 2016 10:22:25 AM


It’s your college graduation day and you’re sitting in a sea of gowns and soon to be college graduates. You look to your left and see your mom waving at you and telling you to smile because she wants a good photo to show your aunts and uncles. You look past your mom and see the rest of the family sitting in the bleachers looking through the graduation program to find your name. Your whole family is sitting in those bleachers except your dad. Not because he was working and couldn’t make it, but because he’s at his own graduation ceremony in a different city. Didn’t see that coming right? Of course not.

On June 11, 2016 the Solanos will graduate together once again. It was only only a few years ago that they graduted together from Citrus Community College earning their Associates Degree. Fast forward to 2016 and the Solanos will be dawning their gowns again, only this time they will be 362 miles apart. Mario will be graduating from Cal State LA and Ashley from Cal State East Bay.

I wanted the best for my daughter and at the time, I felt finishing school was the best thing, yet Ashley was convinced that her country needed her.

No worthy achievements came easy to the Solanos. Like every family, they had their dark periods. When the Gulf War was declared Ashley left Cal Poly Pomona, her school at the time, and enlisted in the Navy. Ashley felt that her country needed her.

“It was bitter sweet for my wife and I. Ashley has always been a good kid and great daughter always willing to lend a hand with disregard for her self-needs. I did not want her to go into the Navy. I wanted the best for my daughter and at the time, I felt finishing school was the best thing, yet Ashley was convinced that her country needed her, which led me to support her decision reluctantly.” said Mario Solano.

We talk about how far we have come, how many challenges we had to overcome and how we can’t wait to be there for each other when we walk at the graduation ceremony.

Ashley enlisted in the Navy and served a tour in Iraq as a helicopter technician. Ashley says her tour on ground exposed her to the horror of war. She was honorably discharged and returned home with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Around the same time, Mario Solano was laid off from his 25-year career as a business partner in a retail organization.

The Solanos experienced an extremely difficult time in their lives, however they are not a family to just stay down and give up. Mario and Ashley decided they wanted to go back to school and finish their college education. “Often we talk about how far we have come, how many challenges we had to overcome and how we can’t wait to be there for each other when we walk at the graduation ceremony.”

Life is about how you confront challenges, how you can mold the lessons of these challenges into something better. I see a bright future for Ashley and I.

Mario Solano and Ashley Solano had planned to attend each other’s graduation because this was not only an accomplishment for them individually, but as a family. It is still unknown whether the two will be able to walk in the ceremony together, however, graduating itself symbolizes both of them enduring and conquering a turbulent time in their lives.

“Life is about how you confront challenges, how you can mold the lessons of these challenges into something better. I see a bright future for Ashley and I.” says soon to be Cal State LA graduate Mario Solano.

 

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Post by Laura Castro-Spencer

Laura Castro-Spencer is a freshman at Cal State LA working for the College of Business & Economics. She enjoys spending time with her family and gifts. Preferably peanut m&m’s or cash.

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