NEW YORK - Christina and Maria Villon Bustillo, identical twins, have overcome many barriers. When they arrived from Ecuador at age 10, they barely knew any English.
"When we came to school, it was hard because we couldn't communicate," Christina said. "But at the same time that was an encouragement for us to actually be able to talk to people."
Two years later, they had taught themselves English and were determined to succeed and never give up, which they had learned from their parents early on.
Cristian Bustillo and Rosendo Villon were both college-educated in Ecuador but had to take blue-collar jobs when they came to the United States. They work in factories to provide for their four children and live the American dream.
The twins graduated in the top 15 at Bay Shore High School. When it came time to pick a college, they both decided on St. John's University, where the two studied business.
On May 19, 2019, Christina earned a bachelor of science in accounting and Maria in finance. Walking across the stage to get their diploma was a dream come true not just for them but their parents, who decided to leave their native Ecuador for a better future for their children.
Not only are they identical twins but the two graduated from St. John's with identical grades—each had a GPA of 3.9.
Maria has accepted a job at Goldman Sachs. Christina is getting a master's degree, and this time next year she has a job waiting for her at Grant Thornton as an audit associate.
"Our goal is to be role models to others who see us and identify with us," Christina said. "We are just ordinary girls from Ecuador—anyone else can do it."
The 21-year-olds were the first in their family to go through the naturalization process; they became American citizens in 2016.
Their father and two older brothers have since followed in their footsteps, while their mother continues to improve her English skills to be able to pass the citizenship test.