Mom, Son Get Diplomas at Same Time, on Same Stage: Carmen, Allen Gomez Graduate From USC

PHOTO: Mom, Son Get Diplomas at Same Time, on Same Stage: Carmen, Allen Gomez Graduate From USC
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It took 22 years since her first college course, but Carmen Gomez finally is a college graduate.

But even more amazing: The Southern California mother has been taking classes so long that she received her degree on the same day, on the same stage as her son.

Gomez, 45, and her son, Allen Gomez, 28, both received their diplomas from the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development on Friday.

The mother of three walked across the stage, receiving her diploma to a standing ovation.

"It was very emotional," Lisa Luna of USC told ABC News. "As a staff member, I broke into tears. To see how happy she was and how emotional she was, it was nice to have them on stage together. The whole class was very supportive."

Moments later, Gomez turned around, handing her son his diploma.

"I started crying, because it was like, 'Wow, my mom gave me my diploma,'" Allen Gomez said. "It's an amazing experience."

The mother-son duo never planned to graduate together.

"It's a coincidence. I never imagined graduating with any of my children," Carmen Gomez said. "I'm on top of a cloud right now."

Her son added, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, just trying to take in that moment. Words cannot describe how I feel today. It's been a long road for both of us."

Carmen Gomez began her college career in 1989 as a not-so-typical college freshman. The high school dropout took one class at a time so she could help her husband raise her three children.

"I went to school, worked full-time, cooked, cleaned, and made sure my kids did their homework," she said.

In 1995, she received her associate degree in business management from Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. A few years later, she completed her second associate degree in medical services.

Shortly after, she began working full-time at the USC School of Public Policy Management and Planning as an office manager. She realized the importance of an education and decided she wanted to go back to school to get her bachelor's degree.

"Education is important," she said. "It will pay off in the long run. I told myself, 'I want to do this,' so I went forward with kids and everything."

In 2006, she officially enrolled at USC. Her son enrolled two years later.

Allen Gomez also faced challenges in school, but saw the importance of an education. He graduated high school in 2001 with a 1.5 GPA. He attended Long Beach City College before transferring to USC. After three years of hard work at USC, he graduated with honors.

Both mother and son say despite struggles, everyone should follow their dreams.

"You can never give up on your dreams," Allen Gomez said. "It's easy to see people doing what you want to do, so think, 'What do I need to do to get to where they're at?'"

His mother added, "I believe if I can do it, anyone can do it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I could have given up, but I didn't."

This is the first time in the history of USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development that a mother and son to graduated on the same day, so the Gomezes have left a mark on the school.

"Everyone loves Carmen, she's a mentor. You want to strive to be like [her]." Lang said. "This will absolutely be a story people will talk about."

Both Gomezes plan to continue their educations. Carmen Gomez plans to take the graduate record examinations (GRE) this fall. She hopes to get her MBA from USC, while continuing working at the school and enjoying time with her husband, children, and six grandchildren.

Allen Gomez will wed this summer. Then, he plans to take the year off. He will begin applying to law schools later this year.

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