Two sisters swept the top two places at their high school and are making their way to Texas A&M, dreams in hand.
Incoming chemistry freshmen Judith Briseño and Karen Briseño earned Valedictorian and Salutatorian respectively at Mesquite High School this spring, having held multiple leadership positions throughout their high school careers.
While the twins collected accolades in JROTC, UIL Academics, National Honor Society and more, Judith said their immigration status has given them a different experience than most of their high school classmates. They have been working toward gaining citizenship for 10 years but expect it to take 10 more before their applications are fully processed and fulfilled.
“Unfortunately, being undocumented has hindered us from applying for federal aid and most scholarships,” Judith said. “That has been our biggest issue besides not being able to get a driver’s license or job, which has in a way isolated us from some of our peers.”
Due to their undocumented status, the twins have been unable to apply for most financial aid. At the request of close friends and family members, a GoFundMe has been created with a goal of $5,000 to help offset their educational expenses. At the time of publishing, the fund had raised $1,218.
“We decided to start the GoFundMe after multiple people showed interest in helping us out and many people advised us to start one in order to cover some of the costs that aren’t covered with our aid,” Judith said.
For the two sisters, hard work and dedication is a valued family trait that motivated them to graduate within .01 points of each other.
“My dad used to always tell us that he wanted us to do our best no matter what and that he wanted us to graduate at the top of our class,” Judith said. “This accomplishment is the best way we could make them proud and have all their wishes come true.”
Inseparable since birth, the twins will be living together this fall and both plan to join the medical field.
“It feels exciting, and not as nerve-racking as it would have been if I was alone,” Karen said. “I know that I will always have a friend there and that is comforting, as well as exciting, to experience college together.”
Like all students, college brings Judith and Karen the chance to develop their freedom and advance their education.
“I am looking forward to establishing a small independence from my parents,” Judith said. “As much as I may miss them, I think many college students look forward to that. Also, I look forward to expanding my knowledge to its fullest potential.”
When they step on campus, the twins plan to dive headfirst into campus life, engaging in Aggie traditions and culture.
“I am not sure about all of the clubs and organizations yet, but I am hoping to get involved in Hispanic organizations, community service and medically inclined organizations,” Karen said. “I am most looking forward to participating in the campus traditions and getting involved in order to meet new people.”
Karen and Judith said they hope their story of struggle and success inspires others to keep going and fight their way toward their goals.
“We are not begging people for money or sharing our story for people to pity us,” Karen said. “We’re sharing our story for people with similar circumstances, for them to find motivation to keep trying in their education just like we are despite challenges we are facing.”