From Window magazine: Success story x 2

Hilary Parker
for Window Magazine

Anne and Andrea d’Aquino (’14) can complete each other’s sentences and often, but not always, predict what the other is thinking. Just ask anyone who’s played them in doubles tennis. They hang out together and crack each other up – a lot. They are roommates, best friends and twin sisters.

One day, they may become research partners.

Having graduated from Western in June, the sisters are now in their first quarter at Northwestern University in Illinois. Both received prestigious National Science Foundation graduate fellowships to study in their respective fields: biochemistry for Anne and chemistry for Andrea.

Any student who makes it to graduate school with a NSF fellowship has already overcome some pretty high odds, but for the d’Aquino sisters, the biggest challenge may have been simply getting the opportunity to attend Western.

“After graduating from high school we weren’t entirely sure we’d be going to college,” because they weren’t sure how they would pay for it, explains Andrea.

Anne and Andrea’s parents immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong, and had not attended a four-year university, nor had any of their three older siblings. Mom, Katherine, worked in retail, and Dad, Joao – a baker – provided plenty of encouragement but couldn’t help with tuition. They weren’t any more familiar with the financial aid process than were their girls.

The sisters had accumulated good grades at Bellingham’s Squalicum High School and had an impressive list of extracurricular activities, including coming in second in the doubles tennis state championships. They had also worked summer jobs to save money for college, Andrea since she was 14 and Anne since age 16. By picking up litter along the side of the highway, working restaurant jobs and babysitting, they saved $5,000-$6,000 apiece; not enough to cover one year of tuition.

So they began applying for scholarships. The sisters set their sights high and applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which grants renewable scholarships to 1,000 students nationwide. Both were finalists for the award, although only Andrea ended up with the scholarship.

But it was enough to encourage both sisters to keep trying. Anne and Andrea went on to receive numerous scholarships, which not only helped them pay for college, but boosted their confidence.

Read the rest of this story on the website for Window Magazine.

Monday, January 26, 2015 - 11:06am