Rosie Pichardo, left, salutes as her late sister, Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, is honored during a Columbia College graduation ceremony next to her mother, Colasa Pichardo, who looked up to a photo of her daughter Saturday morning at the Southwell Complex.

Johanny Rosario Pichardo had a goal of getting her college degree, partly to make her mother proud.

It was the Lawrence, Massachusetts, student’s third try, after abandoning it twice before, she wrote in an essay to Columbia College.

“I decided to attend college to make my mother proud when I receive my degree and because it’ll open a lot of doors for me and make me more valuable,” she wrote.

Pichardo’s mother, Colasa, and sister, Rosie, accepted her degree in human services on her behalf onstage Saturday at the morning Columbia College commencement ceremony.

Pichardo won’t receive all the benefits she envisioned from the online degree. It was awarded posthumously because Marine Sgt. Pichardo died in the waning days of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan.

She was screening women and children trying to flee from the Taliban advance at one of the gates to the Kabul airport when a suicide bomber killed her and a dozen other U.S. service members and 169 Afghans on Aug. 26, 2021. She was 25.

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo

Her sister donned a cap and gown to walk onstage to accept Johanny’s diploma.

“I decided to go to college because I grew up in a single-parent household living within the poverty margins and depending on government assistance,” Pichardo wrote in her essay.

Her mother always stressed to her and her siblings the importance of getting an education so they could have a better life than she did, Pichardo wrote.


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