Miriam and Mayra Maldonado are identical twins with nearly identical backgrounds. The two attended the same schools, participated in the same extracurricular activities, and achieved the same levels of academic excellence.
Now, they have transferred to Illinois State to study to become teachers.
“We are very alike,” said Mayra. “However, we both have different strengths and weaknesses.”
The two sisters were born in Texas, but their family moved to Illinois so they could be closer to relatives. They grew up in Cicero and attended Morton East High School, where they both became Illinois Scholars and achieved perfect grades and attendance.
“That’s something we’re very proud of,” said Mayra. “We enjoy working our way up through school.”
Outside of the classroom, Miriam and Mayra became involved in the same activities. They played for Morton East’s badminton team and participated in Snowball Club, which teaches students to live a healthy lifestyle and brings them together through activities. The sisters also participated in the school’s leadership programs.
After high school, they enrolled into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where they aspired to become professional artists.
“For my whole life, I wanted to be an artist,” said Miriam. “Unfortunately, my experience at the school didn’t meet my expectations.”
Miriam and Mayra felt out of place at SAIC, overwhelmed by the transition to college in a big city.
“We weren’t really suited for city life,” laughed Mayra.
After finishing their freshman year, they transferred to Morton College, a local community college. While there, Miriam and Mayra joined the school’s HOPE Committee, a group that raises money to fund scholarships awarded to students who do not qualify for federal financial aid.
After their sophomore year at Morton College and the first half of college under their belts, the twins were faced with the decision of where they would go to finish their second half.
“We wanted to be further away from home and receive a well-rounded college experience,” said Mayra.
From the start, Illinois State was one of the best options for the twins. It was the right distance from home, as well as the right size for their comfort level. One of their cousins attends the University, which the sisters claim was a driving force behind their decision.
As the twins were both looking to study education, they were impressed by the University’s reputation for teacher preparation. Additionally, they received the Mary F. English Technology Award, a scholarship that assists disadvantaged students pursuing teaching professions.
As they head into their junior year, Mayra is majoring in middle level teacher education, and Miriam is majoring in elementary education. Their majors are fitting, as both students can trace back to the exact moment when they realized they wanted to be teachers.
“I taught a communion class for 10- to 12-year-olds, and it was very exciting leading the children and feeling that they trust and connect with you,” said Miriam. “It was an amazing experience for me and inspired me to pursue my educational path.”
For Mayra, she was first inspired by her favorite class.
“I always loved language arts, and now that’s what I want to teach,” said Mayra. “I know kids begin to struggle at that point, so I want to help guide them in any way I can.”
The sisters are excited to launch their careers in education, striving to make a positive difference. Despite what their futures may hold, they both share the same life philosophy: “We strive to be successful in the paths we choose and to not lose sight of what’s important.”
Miriam and Mayra are the last of five new Redbirds we are featuring on News.IllinoisState.edu during the first weeks of the fall semester.