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Kosovo refugee graduates top of her class at Cal State San Marcos

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SAN MARCOS, Calif. -  Commencement exercises began Friday for the largest graduating class in the 25-year history of Cal State San Marcos.

More than 3,000 students received diplomas and more than half will be the first in their families to receive four-year degrees.

For Laureta Koxha, this day is not just about graduation, it’s a step in a long journey toward the 'American Dream.'

“I would have never imagined being at the top of my business class and being here is just phenomenal and I really cannot even describe it so,” said 2016 Cal State San Marcos Grad Laureta Koxha.

Graduation is a pivotal moment for each and every one of the 3,000 graduating students at Cal State San Marcos, but for Laureta Koxha, it is much more.

"You know my parents, they have five kids, so they have one dream for us, and that is to get a college education and to continue going higher and higher," said Koxha. “That’s an honor that each college receives and I was the College of Business awardee this year.”

The oldest of five, Laureta is graduating at the top of her Business Administration class but she says her journey across the graduation stage was one laden with the burdens of war.

“I remember being 5 years old and Serbian soldiers, you know, banging on our door at gunpoint. Telling us to leave," said Koxha.

Laureta and her family were forced to flee to the United States from Kosovo as refugees in the spring of 1999 – in the midst of Serbian-Albanian war. The family found shelter in a refugee camp, and with the help of the Red Cross was sent to San Diego. Laureta remembers having nothing. She remembers her father wearing one black shoe and one brown because that’s all he owned.

"Coming here with four US dollars in my parents’ pocket was just a crazy experience," said Koxha.

Her parents and family are extremely proud of their daughter’s accomplishments.

“I’m so excited for her, I can’t explain how I am,” said her mother, Shperesa Koxha.

“This is really for us dream come true. I know how education is important. That was my goal since first day we came here,” said her father, Hajarulla Koxha.

Even members of the American family who took them in as refugees in 1999 took part in today’s ceremony.

“Dad was a professor in Europe, mom was studying to be a CPA. The war changed that. But it didn’t change their dreams,” said Foster grandmother Jackie Abrams.

The young woman has much to celebrate, a bright future ahead and evidence that hard work and perseverance pays off.

"Something good will always come out of everything, and as long as you don’t give up, your work will be shown and you’ll get there. And I think anybody can do it," said Laureta Koxha.