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NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) – It is said it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. For Racha Ahmad and her mother, Stani Hajbi, both the journey and the destination are equally celebrated on this day.

“It feels like our dreams came true,” said Ahmad.

Their family lived in Syria at the time war broke out in 2011. Three years later, the family sought asylum and came to New Jersey. It wasn’t long until Ahmad earned an associate degree at Passaic County Community College, eventually enrolling at William Paterson University, where her mother enrolled at the same time. Between classes, both worked to put food on the table.

“We worked hard,” said Ahmad. “We had a full-time job.”

All they’ve endured, all they’ve had to overcome, culminated at the Prudential Center in Newark, as mom and daughter received bachelor’s degrees at William Paterson’s 200th Commencement, with Ahmad having the honor of serving as commencement speaker.

“My overall message is hard work and dedication and not wasting time is very important because education, success and working hard and putting a target in your mind – this is what’s going to benefit you,” said Ahmad.

Ahmad plans on going back to earn her master’s degree, while Hajbi already has an accounting job. Their bachelor’s degrees are a testament not just to their brains, but their bravery.

“No matter war, any other situation, or any other circumstance, education comes first to any person’s life,” said Ahmad.