It is a story of a determined young woman who came to this country from Costa Rica, worked hard, raised two beautiful daughters as a single mother and made their education a top priority.
Ana Romero, who arrived in the U.S.A. 27 years ago, sat proudly among the other parents at the recent Excel Academy High School (East Boston) graduation ceremonies at Faneuil Hall’s Great Hall.
Ana’s twin 17-year-old daughters, who were born five minutes apart, Natalia Calvo and Yasmine Calvo, were receiving their diplomas, and as a result of their overall academic excellence and contributions to their school community, were on their way to two of the world’s most prestigious universities.
Natalia will enroll at Harvard University in Cambridge while her sister, Yasmine, will enroll at Princeton University in New Jersey. Both schools are members of the Ivy League.
The sisters’ journey began at the Kelley School in Chelsea where they attended grades 1-4. Natalia and Yasmine moved on to the Excel Academy Chelsea in the founding class and attended the charter school through eighth grade.
“We were in separate classes all through elementary and middle school,” said Natalia.
“I had requested separate classes because I wanted them to be themselves,” said Ana Romero.
Onward to Excel High School in East Boston
They remained in the Excel Academy Charter School system, moving to a brand new high school in East Boston in the tenth grade as members of the school’s first graduating class of 100 students.
They were certainly at the top of their class, not only establishing their academic credentials as high honor roll students and members of the National Honor Society, but becoming school leaders and representatives in the Model United Nations.
History teacher and Model United Nations advisor Kate Lints and computer science and Technology Club advisor Nora LaCasse were their favorite teachers at Excel. The Calvo twins were co-founders of the Technology Club.
They also praised Excel college counselor Nicole Repp.
“She’s great – we love her,” agreed the sisters.
“She’s [Repp] very patient, very knowledgeable, she helped them through the college admissions process,” lauded Ana Romero.
Natalia received the school’s top science award while Yasmine received the top mathematics award and a community award.
Interestingly, both young ladies are lifeguards at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club. They had joined the club as 11-year-olds.
“Gina [Centrella] has been really great at connecting us to different resources,” said Natalia about the club’s executive director. “Whenever there’s an opportunity, she always makes sure to let us know.”
Ana Romero is very happy with her daughters’ experience at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I love the club,” said Romero. “They not only worked there and taught the kids how to swim, but they had a great swim coach Travis Robinette].”
“He [Robinette] put us in a scuba diving course and we learned how to scuba dive, surf, and snorkel said Natalia.
During their careers, both sisters helped other students with academic tutoring.
Applying to College
Natalia and Yasmine applied to several colleges and were accepted to the best schools in America.
They learned of their acceptances to their Ivy League schools on March 28.
Natalia, who is a Noonan Scholar and took summer courses at Amherst, chose Harvard among five Ivy League acceptances. Johns Hopkins, Wellesley, and Tufts were also on the sisters’ list of elite schools.
“I liked how close the school was [to Chelsea] – and I wanted to be close to my mom,” said Natalia, in explaining her decision to attend Harvard. “The college has a lot of history. I remember visiting Harvard in middle school. I remember thinking, ‘I’ll never get in here’ – and now I’m going there, which is like – crazy.”
Yasmine talked about her decision to attend Princeton.
“The first time I heard about Princeton was from reading [Supreme Court Justice] Ana Sotomayor’s biography during summer reading at the beginning of freshman year,” said Yasmine, who had attended the Beaverworks summer program at MIT. “I really liked the vibe at Princeton.”
The sisters will both study Computer Science at their respective universities.
Encouragement and Support from Mom in Their Earliest Days
Ana Romero is very excited about her daughters’ future plans.
“They’re hardworking kids, they’re very grounded,” said Romero. “I have no doubt that they’re going to succeed at college. I always encouraged them to go to high school, go to college, get a good education, and have a good career.”
Natalia recalled how their mother encouraged them to start thinking about college at a very young age.
“I remember when we were little kids, she said, ‘you have to go college,’’ recalled Yasmine. “My sister and I are so grateful to our mother for all the sacrifices she made.”
“Yasmine took the words out of my mouth,” said an equally thankful Natalia.
For the first time in August, the Calvo girls will be heading their separate ways, Natalia to Harvard, Yasmine to Princeton.
“Hopefully we’ll beat Harvard in football,” said Yasmine, with a smile.