"When she was killed, it was like, 'Oh my goodness,' she didn't even get to graduate. And that was a loss for us. A double loss," said Sandy Phillips, Ghawi's mother.
Ghawi was one of 12 people who died in the shootings at the Century 16 Theaters in Aurora on July 20. Phillips said one of her dreams was for her daughter to graduate from college. MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan invited Phillips and her husband Lonnie to accept an honorary degree awarded to Ghawi.
"So, when we received the letter from Dr. Jordan saying that he was going to bestow an honorary degree on our daughter, we were just thrilled," Phillips said. "First time I can say we had happy tears."
Phillips attended the graduation ceremony at the Colorado Convention Center on Sunday afternoon. The fall class of 2012 had nearly 1,300 graduates. That's the largest fall class in the history of MSU Denver. Phillips said she is both happy and sad to be a part of the celebration.
"It's not easy seeing parents with their children and the blue gowns - and knowing our daughter isn't out there," Phillips said. "It's been difficult."
Ghawi was an aspiring sports journalist. Her family started the Jessica Redfield Ghawi Foundation to provide scholarships to other women interested in becoming sports journalists. Phillips said the foundation has raised close to $100,000.
Even though Ghawi never got the chance to walk the stage, Phillips said she believes her daughter was there.
"We have felt her every step of the way," Phillips said. "More so right now than I think any other time since she died."