58-year-old Liliana Montoya is still in disbelief that she’s part of the Class of 2021 with her two kids. Her 26-year-old daughter Kelsey graduated from New Mexico State University on Friday with a master’s in biology. While her 23-year-old son Zachary earned his undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico on Saturday in chemical and biological engineering.
“It was hard work, but I did it. But I think more about my kids than myself,” said Montoya. “Because they got their whole life ahead of them. They’re going to be able to open doors I can’t even dream of opening.”
The proud mother of two also deserves credit. She graduated on Saturday earning her undergraduate degree from NMSU in individualized studies. It’s been a long road to get here. It started back in 2014 after being a stay-at-home mom for years and just as she was hitting her stride in the classroom, it came to a halt after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2017.
“I had to stop going to school for two years because I got breast cancer,” said Montoya. “And through my chemo and radiation and multiple surgeries I had to stop.”
Luckily Montoya’s been in remission since 2019 and went back to school to finish the job. She hopes her journey will inspire others to continue pursuing their goals no matter their age or roadblocks along the way.
“Don’t let age stop you from learning,” said Montoya. “Don’t let age stop you from achieving something you truly want. But you have to truly want it because it’s not easy. ”
Montoya is currently working at NMSU as an accountant. Her daughter Kelsey is studying for the MCAT for medical school and her son Zachary is working at a medical supply store in Albuquerque.