When elementary school teacher Alejandro Diasgranados told his third- and fourth-grade students that he was pursuing a master’s degree, a light bulb went off in his head.
Diasgranados, who is known as “Mr. Dias” to his students at Aiton Elementary School, realized they needed to experience college firsthand if he was going to preach the importance of higher education, reports The Baltimore Sun.
“I really wanted my students to see how it feels to put a cap on,” Diasgranados explained to The Sun. The 26-year-old educator is a first-generation college graduate.
Graduation was only a couple weeks away, but that didn’t stop him from jumping into action and spearheading a GoFundMe campaign to raise the funds needed to pay for buses from Northeast Washington D.C. to Baltimore, as well as food and tickets to the National Aquarium. The educator ended up raising over $2,000, which also allowed him to purchase graduation caps and matching T-shirts that read: “I am college bound.”
Last Wednesday, family, colleagues and 40 students cheered on Diasgranadosas he walked across the stage to receive his master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University.
“Kids were crying tears of joy. They were standing on chairs,” Diasgranados said. “They really got to see my whole family—my mom being very emotional and congratulating me—to help them really understand the importance and the value of education. It was more than anyone could ask for.”
Diasgranados said he needed to go over and beyond to show his students that anything is possible, adding that children need to see “someone who looks like them and has endured similar struggles walk across the stage.”
And the teacher’s efforts seemed to have had positive effect: “I feel like I learned that when I grow up, I can graduate, too, and mostly if you can graduate, you can do many things to be a teacher, doctor or athlete,” said Kinaya Jackson, one of Diasgranados’ students. Jackson, who is eight years old, wants to be a teacher and a soccer or tennis player when she grows up.
The best part? Diasgranados plans to teach the same group of students next year.
“It was really good to see that the learning doesn’t stop,” he said. “They see me as a teacher, and now, they see me as a student.”