When Gigi Bolt graduated high school in 1997, her then 1-year-old daughter Katherine was in the audience cheering her on. More than 20 years later, the mother-daughter duo celebrated their college graduations together, walking across the same stage on the same day.
“It was a beautiful moment. She was right by my side… It was such an honor to be able to share such a special day for my daughter with her. We’re very close,” Gigi Bolt, 38, tells PEOPLE.
“We’ve grown up together, so it was very fitting that we’d be able to walk across the stage and graduate together.”
On May 2, Gigi and 22-year-old Katherine Bolt both graduated from Florida International University, in Miami — mom with her master’s and daughter with her bachelor’s degree. Gigi says she and Katherine were excited to learn that their ceremonies would be held on the same day, and their joy only increased when, on the day of graduation, they learned they would sit right next to each other.
“We held hands and we hugged each other and just kept smiling. We were so happy to be next to each other. It was a wonderful moment,” the doting mother gushes. “They called me for the last master’s [graduate]… And then she was the first bachelor’s, so we were able to walk one after another.”
Photos from the event showed Gigi and Katherine sporting wide smiles as they posed for pictures in their caps and gowns. Gigi says that the pair celebrated their big day with a family lunch and even a party over the weekend.
Gigi gave birth to Katherine at just 16 years old, during her junior year of high school. Katherine’s father is no longer in the pair’s life.
The mom completed her bachelor’s degree in 2012 — and Katherine was at the ceremony supporting her mother. Gigi says she and Katherine have always been close.
“We’re very close and we do a lot of things together. We have a very strong bond. We make sure that we communicate with each other. She knows I love her deeply,” Gigi says.
Although Gigi does not “promote teenage pregnancy,” she says she wouldn’t change her story.
“I would never change anything about my past. I have no regrets when it comes to that. It’s been such a beautiful part of life being her mother,” she tells PEOPLE. “I adore her more than anything in the world. She’s my favorite person.”