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SAN DIEGO – A Holocaust survivor was awarded an honorary degree from Southwestern College Friday after her years of service speaking to students about the dangers of extremism.

Ruth Sax, 90, says she has been waiting for years to finish her degree.

“I was taken aback, I really am, because this never happened to nobody in my family before,” Sax said.

At age 13, Sax had her education cut short after Nazis invaded, her family was separated and sent to different concentration camps and for a time she survived through the horrors of Auschwitz, creating a community of strangers.

Sax was honored by the college for speaking to tens of thousands of students about her experiences in the Holocaust and spreading her message of peace and compassion.

“No matter what happens, to be strong, you have to surround yourself with happy people,” Sax said.

Sax said she was overwhelmed by the experience of graduating alongside hundreds of young minds and has pledged to continue to be a beacon of peaceful and rational thinking.

Sax is now working on her second book and will be awarded with the San Diego Medal of Valor next month.