Mat Shinney of Lakeville is officially a college graduate.

On Saturday, he walked across the stage for Bridgewater State University, with his new diploma in one hand and a photograph in the other.

The photograph was of him and his late mother, who passed just before his high school graduation.

Graduating college was an emotional milestone for Shinney as he fulfilled a promise to his mother that was years in the making.

“I remember promising her when I first learned she was sick that I was going to get my degree. I was just 11 years old,” shared Shinney.

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Shinney continues to process the loss of his mother, but he will never forget the promise he made to her when he said goodbye.

Mat Shinney
Mat Shinney

“There she was, all tubed up, and I didn’t know at the time, but they were having me say my goodbyes…I just remember holding her hand while she was in a coma and promising her I’d get my degree,” he said.

Shinney followed through on that promise, and the university shared the touching moment of him (and his mother) receiving his diploma.

“When I was up on stage, I just felt her presence for the first time in a while,” he said. “I heard her voice, I looked for the signs, and I found them.”

Shinney was overcome with emotions as he walked off the stage and into the arms of his mother’s best friend, Kerri Weed.

Weed may not be related to Shinney, but Shinney looks to her as part of his family.

“She was one of my mom’s best friends and (has) treated me like a son for as long as I can remember,” he said. “Her kids are like siblings to me. She was there every step of the way, and it’s only fitting she was there for the finish line.”

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Call it a message from above or call it incredible timing, but when Shinney’s name was called, the sun broke through the clouds and shined a ray of light onto the field.

“I saw the sun shine down as I heard all my friends in the stands, I just knew it was her,” he said. “I was just trying to find my dad in the crowd, and I heard her voice in my head. I felt relieved, I had done it, my work was done, my promise was fulfilled.”

As far as what’s next for Shinney, he’s unsure, but the young grad is excited to pursue a career in video production and editing.

Mat Shinney
Mat Shinney

“Like my mom always told me, I’m going to ‘keep making diamonds out of dirt’,” he said.

Shinney’s promise has been fulfilled, but he will never stop living for his mother.

“Her purpose in this world was to put a smile on the faces of others, so I made that my purpose,” he said. “And as long as I continue to pursue that, she’s never gone.”

Watch the heartfelt moment on the university's Facebook page.

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