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UT grad celebrates 'beating the odds' with fellow Longhorns

The University of Texas Tower. (CBS Austin)

Friday, the 134th class of University of Texas at Austin graduates will start walking the stage at 8 a.m. University-wide commencement is Saturday evening, weather permitting. It's a large celebration not just for grads but for the families who helped get them this far.

Taking graduation photos in front of Littlefield Fountain and the UT Tower is a Longhorn rite of passage, but when journalism senior Reina Olivas posted her graduation photos on Twitter, people took notice.

"I didn't think that it was going to get so much attention," Olivas said. It wasn't so much the pictures as it was what she said.

"1st gen-student, single parent home w/5 siblings, the other parent incarcerated during my undergrad, BUT here I am. Beating the odds May 19," she wrote. Since she put up the post on May 9, Olivas has received nearly 8,000 likes and close to 900 retweets.

Olivas' mother is a housekeeper, an immigrant and a single mom. "I'm very excited to be graduating. I'm very excited to be entering the workforce, but I think what makes me most excited is seeing how proud my mom is," she says.

Less than two months into her freshman year, Olivas' father went to jail.

"Even though my parents weren't together anymore it still hit me pretty hard, I mean, that's my dad," she says.

It was another challenge that she chose to overcome. Olivas recalls sitting in her dorm room that night, emotional and far from her family.

"I had to really sit there and think, 'Am I going to let this defeat all of the hard work I've put in to get here? Or am I going to keep using this as motivation?'" she explains.

Olivas knows she's not the only grad with a story of perseverance. Her tweet connected her with others. "First generation, minority, low income students or just students with a troubled background," she says.

However, her hope is that her post inspires others like her to never give up.

"Seeing the end result and seeing how happy that makes my family -- especially my mom -- that's the best feeling in the world," she says.

Close to 30,000 people are expected to attend University of Texas commencement Saturday night. If severe weather becomes a problem, the event will be moved to Sunday.

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