I recently had the chance to sit down with Kim and Jack Mejia-Cuellar, twin sisters from Media Academy (Fremont campus) in East Oakland who have both been awarded full scholarships to Yale University. It was inspiring to hear their story — and how, as one of their teachers put it, they shaped their education into something rigorous and meaningful.
I was struck by something Kim said about feeling like outsiders, at times, for working so hard:
“No one said it outright, but our behavior was strange,” Kim said. “By setting goals for ourselves while other people were setting limits, we were always sort of the odd ones out. We felt pressured, but we didn’t let the pressure get to us.”
Both said that they doubted they’d be where they are if they didn’t have the other as a support system. What about the other bright minds who will show up to school tomorrow, but without an identical twin or best friend with the same drive, discipline and self-assurance? What can their families, friends and the school system do (or avoid doing) to help them set goals instead of limits?
Photo of Kim and Jack (left to right) by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group
ADVICE FROM JACK AND KIM
I asked Jack and Kim if they’d write some advice for younger students, and they managed to squeeze it into their hectic schedules. Here it is, just as it came in:
- Get involved in as many extracurricular activities as you can. Your high school experience is what you make of it, so get involved with clubs about things you are truly passionate about. Not being involved can make coming to school a dull experience.
- Always stay on top of your schoolwork. It may seem tedious now, but it will prepare you for college, and good grades will pay off in the end.
- Don’t be afraid to dream big. You should always set high expectations for yourself even when others may not. Only you can challenge yourself.
- Start the college search early. Snag those travel grants and visit colleges you are interested in. When you visit campuses, you’ll know whether the schools are a good fit.
- Maintain good connections. Having a good relationship with your teachers and community leaders makes a world of a difference. Let them know your goals and aspirations so they can help you find internships/volunteer opportunities in whatever you want to pursue.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Your struggles have made you stronger, and your story can serve as an inspiration for others in your situation. This is the first step to being proud of who you are and where you come from.
- Stay true and be you! There will be a lot of pressure from your family and your friends to be a certain way, but make sure to listen to your heart and pave your own path.