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A service dog gets his own college diploma, winning huge cheers

Seton Hall University gave Grace Mariani's service dog, Justin, a special doggie diploma this week, to the delight of Mariani and her fellow graduates.
Seton Hall University/Screenshot by NPR
Seton Hall University gave Grace Mariani's service dog, Justin, a special doggie diploma this week, to the delight of Mariani and her fellow graduates.

They got through college together — and when Grace Mariani took to the stage to receive her diploma at Seton Hall University this week, her service dog, Justin, was right beside her.

Her fellow graduates cheered as school President Joseph Nyre handed Mariani her diploma. She earned a B.S. in education, graduating magna cum laude.

Then Nyre held out a diploma for Justin, and the crowd inside the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., erupted. The scene was captured on video by the school.

Justin paused before accepting the white cylinder, glancing over to Mariani. Then he mastered the moment, grasping the tube in his mouth, his tail wagging while Mariani grinned.

The pair left the stage together to a chorus of cheers, and more than a few barks.

As it shared footage from the ceremony, Seton Hall noted that the 6-year-old dog, a mix of yellow Lab and golden retriever, had attended all of Mariani's classes with her.

According to the university, Mariani, of Mahwah, N.J., plans to use her degree to work in elementary education and special education.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.