Twins Michael and Giovani Pimentel began their academic paths in the Greenville Independent School District. Now, their educational pursuits have led them thousands of miles apart from one another.
Michael is headed to graduate school at Stanford University in California and Giovani to Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.
The twins graduated with their bachelor’s degrees this past May from Texas A&M University - Commerce knowing where they were attending to pursue their post-undergraduate degrees. Now that summer has come and gone, the two said they’re ready to venture out of Texas, one on the road to Louisiana and the other to California.
“I’m ready to go to law school because I know I’m going to meet people who are passionate about social justice and changing laws to better fit everyone,” Giovani, who is leaving within the next week, said. “I know not everyone is going to agree with me but having that challenge and growth will be great.”
Michael has already had a taste of living on Stanford’s campus as he was there last summer as part of a selective summer research program with the school’s biology department.
Their mother, Carmen, said she is proud of them and their desire to attend post-undergraduate programs, but reminds them to stay humble and remember where they both started.
“Everyone, myself, my parents, aunts and uncles in Mexico are so proud of them because of their success and how far they have gotten.” she said in Spanish. “This really is the country of opportunity because maybe perhaps in our country they wouldn’t have been able to get this far because of the economic situation.”
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy for the twins. They mentioned hurdles they have overcome and uneasiness they have faced due to their immigrant status. The twins are in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and have been since it became available in 2012. Their legal status, both said, made them feel uncertain about their academic careers beyond high school.
“Even just applying to colleges and stuff, I didn’t know if I would get in or if I should tell them I’m not a U.S. citizen,” Giovani said about applying to TAMUC and other schools. “It’s kind of scary telling people, especially like colleges and stuff because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Unsure about whether they should disclose their legal status when applying and the kind of financial aid they could receive with their legal status, they ended up staying close to home and attended TAMUC. A number of campus visits, plenty of email and phone conversations about what kind of aid they qualified for led them to the decision.
“I couldn’t imagine going through that same process somewhere far away and visiting it like once a month,” Giovani said. “They had a really good hispanic outreach program that helped us figure it out and at other campuses they didn’t have that. It worked out.”
A large part of their decision to attend TAMUC was because of the financial aid they would receive, Michael said. Michael was part of the Regents Scholar Program, a program that provides 50 percent full college funding to qualified applicants. The program funding Michael received along with other scholarships awarded by the school provided the financial stability to attend college with little to nothing paid out of their own pockets, with the thought that they wouldn’t qualify for that kind of help anywhere else.
“I got that and I didn’t think I was eligible for other scholarships like anywhere else,” Michael said. “We didn’t know we were eligible for financial aid anywhere in Texas. So if we had known that we would have applied to other places, but we didn’t know about that.”
Being first generation college students, Giovani said the undergraduate application and financial aid process was difficult to navigate.
“We didn’t really know anything but it was up to us to figure it out because, you know, our parents don’t speak English so it was a lot to process,” he said. “But it worked.”
Once they got into their college classes, Michael in the biology program and Giovani in the nursing program, they soon figured out they weren’t quite studying what they wanted to. The four years they spent at TAMUC, taking classes, meeting professors and meeting people with different interests, led them away from what interested them initially.
Giovani, going on to study immigration law, started out as a nursing major, but switched just more than a year into college in late 2016 citing the election that year.
“I’ve always been interested in politics because, as an immigrant, life is a constant struggle with politics and with the news painting immigrants a certain way,” he said. “I’ve always been into activism but at that moment I thought we needed more people, like me, doing stuff like this; more Hispanics, people of color, working with people everyday, helping them.”
Michael on the other hand, was encouraged by his high school anatomy teacher, Kathy Miller, and college professors, to switch from biology to chemistry. He ended up graduating Summa Cum Laude as a triple major, with a bachelor’s degree in math, biology and chemistry while Giovani graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in public health and political science.
They both said that by the time they began applying to post-undergraduate programs that they weren’t too nervous about the application process, but did have some difficulty narrowing down the school in which they were interested. Support from their peers, professors and programs they were in alleviated worry and stress, they said.
“During the internship at Stanford they really prepared us for the application process,” Michael said.
“It wasn’t really stressful because I had guidance from people who had done it before, but it was fun to me,” Giovani recalled about his own experience.
The two are quick to remember their educational roots when asked about academic journey, which started at Greenville ISD as they began pre-kindergarten there and graduated from GHS in 2015 in the top ten percent of their class.
“I enjoyed going through Greenville, especially with all the programs they had,” Michael said, adding that he was on the robotics team, tennis team and University Interscholastic League academics.
Now the twins are on track to head in different directions as one prepares to go to Louisiana and the other to California. The most time the twins have spent apart was the three months Michael was at Stanford last summer but once they both leave the house, Michael in September and Giovani in the next few days, the two will be on track to see one another less. Even then, their mother said she’ll be the one impacted most.
“They’re not gone yet and my heart is already broken, I already miss them,” she said. “There’s nothing left for me to do besides pray that God protects them and takes care of them wherever they go.”
Michael and Giovani, though, said the separation is only temporary.
“When you don’t see someone that you’re so close with you get sad but not too much because you know you’re going to see them again - it’s not indefinite,” Giovani said.