Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
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Online Editor: Mark Kendall

For editorial matters:
Editor: Mark Wood
Phone: (909) 621-8158
Fax: (909) 621-8203

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Branching Out                                                     En Español
Could twins Jazmin and Lizbeth Lopez make it at top-ranked colleges more than 3,000 miles apart? Of course, they could. The real story was how they made it there in the first place.

By Mark Kendall

On a breezy, tourist-brochure day in California’s wine country, twin sisters Jazmin and Lizbeth Lopez sat side by side waiting to graduate as the top two students in Napa High’s Class of 2005. This was a moment of triumph, but Jazmin was so nervous she couldn’t even listen to the speeches. She feared she was going to get kicked out.

Jazmin and Lizbeth Lopez hold the signs
they displayed during graduation from
Napa High. More photos ...
The twins had decided to make a statement during the ceremony. As Jazmin crossed the stage to accept her diploma, she unfolded a black-and-white banner reading Orgullo Latino—“Latino Pride.” Lizbeth followed right behind with a Mexican flag. This sort of thing didn’t come naturally to the shy teens, but they did it anyway, and Jazmin even added a little flourish—blowing a kiss to the crowd. It was only the latest surprise from the once-predictable pair.
The inseparable siblings were known simply as “the twins” or “the Lopez sisters” to many at Napa High. Along with taking most of the same classes, they served as co-presidents of the Hispanic Club, studied side by side after school and cleaned homes together on the weekends to help with their family’s finances. They tied for the highest GPA—4.67—in a class of more than 500 students, and became co-winners of the school’s highest honor—the “Indian of the Year” award. To no one’s surprise, they were accepted at every college they applied to: Berkeley, Dartmouth, Stanford and others. Jazmin and Lizbeth easily could have gone off to school together, as many twins do.

No way, the sisters decided. In fact, the fraternal twins who had shared a bedroom their entire lives wound up choosing colleges about as far apart as you can get in the continental United States. Jazmin picked Pomona; Lizbeth chose Bowdoin College in Maine.

Could they make it on their own? There was little doubt. Jazmin and Lizbeth’s story is about more than the drama of going off to college and leaving behind a twin sister. The sisters went through transformations before college that set them on a different course—and set them apart from the typical first-year students. These two weren’t going to come home for the holidays and freak out their parents with idealistic, change-the-world talk. They already had done that years ago.

Maria Lopez hugs her daughter, Jazmin, as Lizbeth looks on, at a post-
graduation party.  More photos ...
Back to graduation: Despite their fears, Jazmin and Lizbeth’s on-stage statements of ethnic pride passed with little reaction. The ceremony in the high school football stadium was as California-casual as they come, with students stepping down from the stage to a line of welcoming teachers—some clad in shorts and floral shirts—offering hugs and handshakes to the graduates. When the twins arrived at the line, the affection was so strong that some teachers joked that they were creating a bottleneck.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at anything they decide to do—politics, law, service,” said their ninth-grade English teacher Hilary Zunin. “Wherever they go, people are going to just say, ‘wow.’’’ After the ceremony, the girls skipped the grad night event planned by the school—it cost 50 bucks!—and headed home to celebrate with friends and family at a backyard barbecue shaded by an expansive grapefruit tree. Ranchera music played as they feasted on arranchera, grilled flank steak seasoned with cilantro, and nopales, a cactus dish. Dad worked the old-school charcoal barbecue. Hugging the girls, mom gave a brief, heartfelt speech in Spanish: “Thanks for everything, for all your hard work,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I’m going to miss you.” continued ...
©Copyright 2006
by Pomona College
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