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B&E grad proposes on commencement stage


Lucky graduates have offers and options to consider, possibilities and maybe even commitments that give shape or direction to their first steps into the so called "real world."

Melissa Collazo may have received the best offer of any West Virginia University graduate this weekend.

Collazo's boyfriend, Estevan Herrera, made a surprise wedding proposal during Sunday's commencement ceremonies at WVU's Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at the WVU Coliseum.

Collazo's engagement was one of the highlights of a weekend full of milestones at WVU's 142nd commencement. About 4,000 students graduated from the main campus in May and an estimated 30,000 family members were in town for the weekend celebration.

Herrera, who graduated from WVU's College of Business and Economics in 2010 and is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, made a special trip from Tyndall Air Force base in Panama City, Fla., where he is training. He hung out with members of his and Collazo's family this weekend, but told only his mother about his plan to propose at commencement.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Herrera slipped away from the family members, presumably to sit with friends. Instead he changed into his military uniform and waited secretly in the wings.

As Collazo received her diploma, Herrera met her on the stage, dropped to one knee, presented the engagement ring and popped the question.

"I didn't know until I was walking up (to the stage) and I was like, 'Why are you here?,' " Collazo said between laughter and tears of joy. "I didn't know. I'm in shock."

The stunned audience broke into applause when Dean Cameron Hackney approached the microphone and said, "Yes, that was a marriage proposal, and she said, 'yes.' "

Herrera had originally planned to propose in a romantic setting such as a Florida beach, but time and obligation steered him toward Morgantown. When he asked the Collazos for permission to marry their daughter, Melissa's mother had only one request.

"She said, 'If there's any way, I'd really like to see it,' " Herrera said. "I wanted to make that happen."

WVU officials believe Herrera is the first to propose marriage during a WVU commencement.

Former sweethearts at Ringgold High School outside of Pittsburgh, the romance continued in college.

Collazo, a fashion design and merchandising major who specializes in wedding planning, begins an internship at Kleinfeld in New York next month. Herrera will continue training at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla.