Vana Ebrahimi, a 25-year-old from Glendale, graduated from Loyola Law School on Sunday while her brother graduated from medical school. While their in-person commencement ceremonies were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, they found a solution to make the day special.
Both went to visit their grandpa, Hayrik Abnous, at a La Crescenta nursing home, where he has been since January. In an effort to curb spread of the virus, the facility has been under a lockdown since March.
So Ebrahimi and her brother — first generation college students — got to see their grandpa through a glass door in an emotional reunion.
“We just decided since we’re both graduating, let’s go and surprise him and wear our cap and gowns,” Ebrahimi said. “It was a big deal for us to include him.”
The video of the special moment shows Ebrahimi and her brother, who did not want to share his name or school information, in their gowns, waving to their grandpa while he looks at them in tears from his wheelchair.
“It was heartbreaking but cute at the same time,” said Ebrahimi, who was also in tears in the video. “It was a surreal feeling for us both. It’s the American dream.”
Her parents and grandparents escaped war in Iran and went to Austria, eventually making it to the U.S. in 1993, just before she was born.
“My mom and dad came here literally with no money and not knowing English,” Ebrahimi said. “For us to be able to not just go to college, but also get a graduate degree… It was like the struggle of coming here and escaping war and doing all that was worth it. For us it feels like we’re finally paying them back.”
Having her children graduate from law school and medical school has been emotional for her own mother too, Ebrahimi said. While her uncles were able to leave Iran during the war on student visas, her mother was not.
“You don’t just, you know, send your daughter to America on her own,” Ebrahimi reflected. “So, my mom had to stay back, and she never got to go to college because the war happened and the schools closed.”
As an Armenian American, she says the accomplishment has even more meaning for her as a minority.
“From a culture that’s had a genocide, we’re still here we’re still standing. We’re pursuing our dreams and they didn’t destroy us,” she said.