Grand Valley State University freshmen Odalis Johanna Osorio, who goes by Johanna, and her identical twin sister, Odalis Patricia Osorio, who goes by Patricia, do nothing the easy way.
Consider their time at Wyoming High School, from which they graduated this past spring.
Already as freshmen they’d decided to push themselves and signed up for Honors English.
“My mom didn’t even know,” recalls Patricia, “and I can remember her asking ‘Why are you guys studying so hard?'”
Johanna continues the story for Patricia — a not uncommon occurrence for the pair, who also often answer questions in unison.
“We wanted to take on that challenge,” says Johanna. “It was hard, but we made it through.”
“I was scared every day in that class,” Patricia adds with a laugh.
“But we gained so much knowledge and skills,” concludes Johanna. “We learned how to study; we learned how to be students.”
First Generation Students
The twins have taken that knowledge, and much else learned during their high school days, to their university experience at GVSU, where they are part of a pre-dental program with a goal of one day opening their own dental practice. They already have a name picked out: Osorio Dental. And though they know the road ahead of them will be difficult, they are determined to succeed.
This semester the first-generation college students are taking four classes each, and two of those classes are chemistry and biology, each of which also has a lab.
“It’s harder than we expected,” says Johanna. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but we’ll get there.”
One thing that is making life a little easier for the pair is financial aid. They’ve received assistance from GVSU and were awarded scholarships from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, based on their grades, activities and a short personal essay. Each received a foundation award of $1,000 from the Josephine Ringold Scholarship fund, which has given approximately $600,000 to students in the Grand Rapids area since it was established in 1991.
“We are still paying a lot since it’s two of us,” says Johanna. “We are very grateful for getting any financial assistance because it does help, no matter how much.”
Hot Chocolate in French
They’re also grateful to teachers at Wyoming High School, who not only made an impact on them during their time there but have stayed in touch now that they’re at GVSU.
One such person is French teacher Amy Wood.
The twins took French all through high school to push themselves and get out of their comfort zones. Fluent in Spanish, thanks to family ties to both Honduras and Mexico, they knew taking Spanish would have been easy. But French would present a challenge, and the twins were resolute in their belief that surmounting challenges was the best way to use high school as a launching pad for college.
They found a bonus in Wood, whom they call Madame Wood.
“She was a big influence on us, and she’s stayed in touch with us and given us advice,” says Patricia. “We had her class in the morning, and she had this little machine where you could make hot chocolate. It made us feel comfortable.”
‘It’s harder than we expected. It’s going to be a big challenge, but we’ll get there.’ — Johanna Osorio on university life
Jonathan Bushen was another mentor and guide for the twins, and he too has stayed in contact with them.
“He motivated us to go to university,” says Johanna. “Just the other day he texted, and he was like ‘Have you joined any clubs yet?'”
Patricia laughs. “We told him ‘yes’ because we joined the Latino Student Union, and we’d just been at a meeting!”
Drive + Compassion = Success
Bushen, who teaches business, technology and video production, says Johanna and Patricia are two of the most gracious and kind students he has taught at Wyoming High School. “Their drive for success along with compassion for others are some of their many great qualities,” he says. “As their business teacher for three years, I watched them develop into young women who have a passionate heart for others, along with determination for individual success, and it wasn’t hard to see that they would be successful in college, and beyond. I am fortunate to know them and to have just had a small piece in their journey.”
In addition to supportive former teachers, the twins also have support from family — not just their mom and step dad but also numerous aunts and uncles and cousins — encouraging and pushing them to succeed. In turn, they have a deep desire to model success for others in their family, including a 3-year-old brother and a number of school-aged cousins.
“At Wyoming, when you graduate you get cords that you wear for all of the clubs and activities you’ve been part of,” says Patricia. “For Honors Society, for Key Club (a group that coordinates volunteer activities), for class committees. I remember my cousin looked at us wearing them and said ‘I want those.’ And I said: ‘Girl, you have to earn them.'”
Earning it. For the Osorio twins, there’s no other way.