The American Dream Scholarship recognized their graduating students Friday afternoon at their second annual reception dinner at Bellevue University.
One graduate missing was Sarah Root, who was killed by a drunk driver hours after graduating with a 4.0 GPA back in January.
"She worked full time, went to school full time and was able to carry on a 4.0 and still have time for friends and family - just tremendous. She really knew how to prioritize," says Michelle Root, Sarah's mother.
The scholarship, which awards nearly $1.25 million annually to students with financial constraints, is renewable each year, which meant scholarship directors spent a lot of time learning Root's future career goals.
"She had big aspirations," says Johnna Martinez, the director of scholarships and grants at BU. "There were many doors that were going to be open for her and what she was going to do. We were just so proud to have her as a scholar recipient."
The scholarship was releasing Root of the financial burden of paying student loans.
The school invited Sarah's family to attend the dinner and help recognize Root and the other graduates, among them, first generation students.
"First thing I did was cry because she should be here - she should be giving her testimony of what this school meant to her," says Michelle Root.
But Martinez says Root was there, and always will be as part of one of Bellevue University's graduating classes.
"She is here. She's part of our Bellevue University family. She was one of our scholars and she is one of Bellevue University's graduates. These students all get to invite their families. Had Sarah still been with us today, she would have been here with her family. And we felt it was important to let her family know, we will continue to celebrate her accomplishments, and we want them to celebrate with us," says Martinez.