Illinois State University is home to many siblings but none quite as unique as the newest pair of transfer students.
Not only do they look exactly the same, but they have taken almost the exact same steps on the pathway to their future.
Identical twins Miriam and Mayra Maldonado are proud Mexican Americans from Texas who have not had the easiest lives.
Despite their hardships, the pair always had the drive to create their own future, even if it took more than one attempt to find the right starting point.
“Our family would tell us to choose to follow a career based on something we love and know how to do because you do not want to be stuck with a job you don’t like and will hate forever,” Miriam said.
Miriam and Mayra are both currently education majors at ISU; they found their passion for teaching in the middle of trying to become something very different.
The two originally attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and have always dreamed of becoming artists from a very young age.
While their family pushed the idea of loving what they decide to do as a career choice, their teachers always emphasized having a career based on their academics in which they excelled.
Some teachers discouraged their choice and they admitted that they felt a lot of pressure about their decision, questioning whether it was the right path for them.
“We were really excited freshmen at SAIC, it was a very creative school but when we had expectations that weren’t met, we started to feel very secluded,” Mayra said.
One of the main factors that caused them to leave SAIC was the fact that is was in Chicago and the two were not really equipped for city life.
“There was a lot of traffic, a lot of commotion, we were busy going from one place to another, and it was just very overwhelming from the first day,” Miriam said.
But for Miriam, wanting to leave went well beyond the hustle and bustle of the city. She felt that the environment they were in was not molding them into the artists, or even people they wanted to be.
“As things progressed, we realized it wasn’t the right environment for us, it wasn’t really culturally diverse which is something that was putting a downfall on us more socially than academically,” Miriam said.
“As artists, we did grow, but it wasn’t something meant for us and we realized we wanted to pursue something much bigger than ourselves,” Miriam said.
Miriam and Mayra didn’t see leaving SAIC as a negative, but more as a learning experience.
While one door closed on having a career in the art world, another door opened them up to what they truly wanted to do.
They did not want their experience at SAIC to take away from their love of art and wanted some off time to decide what they really wanted to do without taking a year off of college.
So, the pair spent a year at Morton College in Chicago before finally coming to ISU.
“We always envisioned having that perfect college experience and walking on the Quad on the way to class; we really hadn’t found that until visiting ISU and made the decision to transfer,” Mayra said.
Miriam is currently an elementary education major with an endorsement in English as a Second Language and Mayra is a middle level education major with an endorsement in English language arts and social studies.
“The previous experiences in our life regarding our education were pivotal moments that made a great impact in our decision to become educators,” Miriam said.
Their mom also pursued teaching as a career but being a single mom, her priorities were pushed in another direction.
“A lot of things are important to me, my family, making a foundation for myself and having a stable, successful future so at any time I decide to have a family of my own, they’ll be able to have more available resources through me so their lives are easier and they don’t have to go through the stress or struggles I went through,” Mayra said.
Miriam and Mayra share the same life philosophy, “we strive to be successful in the paths we choose and to not lose sight of what’s important.”