'I'm sorry I couldn't be there,' special video makes it more than 5,000 miles for SJSU graduation surprise

Amanda del Castillo Image
Thursday, December 19, 2019
Boyfriend surprises SJSU graduate from 5,000 miles away
San Jose State University graduate and pro-drag racer, Jianna Salinas was surprised by a special congratulations video from her boyfriend stationed overseas in Japan with the U.S. Air Force.

SAN JOSE (KGO) -- A special graduation surprise for one San Jose State University student involved a video message from a loved one who is stationed in Japan.

SJSU made sure a touching message of support made it more than 5,000-miles for SJSU graduate Jianna Salinas had no idea what was in store for her commencement ceremony.

The 22-year-old is a first generation college student, graduating with a degree in Early Childhood Education and minor in Atypical Studies.

"From day one, I told myself that my education was important, as well as following my passion," Salinas told ABC7 News.

Her passion? Professional motorcycle drag racing. She picked up the sport about a year and a half ago, and has already been recognized nationally.

"I was the first Latina to win in a professional class," Salinas explained. "Specifically, I won Pomona, California back in November."

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Salinas is the first Latina to race and win in the National Hot Rod Association's Professional Pro-stock class.

She hopes to set an example for other women of color, proving there is a place for them in the sport.

"That's something that my sisters and I, my family -- all of us really -- we're trying to push to try to open the doors to other women of color," Salinas said. "To give them the confidence, and to give them the support that they need and go out there and show them that they can do this. And that there's a place for them to do it."

Salinas said it's a family affair, "My father races, a Top Fuel dragster. My sister races an A-Fuel dragster, and my other sister is starting her journey."

At Wednesday's graduation ceremony, the Salinas family was out in full force.

Dad, Mike Salinas shared words of encouragement.

"I believe she has the world at her hands," he said. "She can accomplish anything she wants."

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Jianna's strong support system was short one person -- a special someone stationed more than 5,000 miles away.

"I do have a boyfriend. He's actually stationed in Japan right now, serving for the Air Force. So he's not able to be here," she explained. "He's watching it, live streaming it. So, it's good to know that he's here in heart."

Then, as thousands of graduates and their families filled the Event Center at SJSU, the biggest surprise filled the screen in the middle of the ceremony.

Salinas quickly realized it was a message from her boyfriend, Lt. Eldrich Evaristo.

"I'm sorry I couldn't be there to experience this with you and your family," Lt. Evaristo said. "Just know that I love you, I miss you, and I can't wait to see you soon. Congratulations Jianna."

The video brought Salinas and her family to tears.

Salinas explained Evaristo graduated from SJSU in the spring.

Next step for Salinas, the college graduate/professional motorcycle drag racer, looks to build a better Bay Area with her new degree.

The goal, "Incorporating cooking and gardening within the classroom to strengthen life skills and overall curriculum of schools," she said.

"Sometimes you can have it all," Salinas told ABC7 News. "If you're willing to do it, you can make your dreams come true."