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Diplomat’s twins persevere to graduate North Shore High School

North Shore High School students Nicole and Neila

North Shore High School students Nicole and Neila Cruz, center, with their parents, Anisabel and Antonio Coelho Ramos da Cruz, at their graduation ceremony on Friday, June 27, 2014. The twin sisters overcame the language and cultural barrier they encountered three years ago when they moved to America from their native Angola. Credit: John Fischer

Graduating high school is a milestone in a young person’s life, signifying the hard work and challenges they have overcome.

Nobody knows that better than twin sisters Neila and Nicole Cruz, 18, who graduated Friday from North Shore High School.

Originally from Angola, a country in southwest Africa, the twins moved to the United States at the age of 15 when their father, Antonio Coelho Ramos da Cruz, got a job working at the United Nations headquarters in New York. They enrolled at North Shore soon after arriving.

“I was looking for a good school for them,” said Antonio, who is the minister counselor for the permanent mission to the Republic of Angola at the UN, “and I was not mistaken. It’s a good school for them. I think in the last three years, they learned a lot from the American education system.”

While the girls agree that they received a good education at North Shore, they say it was not an easy arrival, having to overcome a language barrier and adjust to American culture. They took special classes to help improve their English.

“[The] first year was really hard because of the language,” said Nicole, whose native language is Portuguese. “We had to take an ESC [English as a Second Language] class. It was helpful.”

Another challenge was adjusting to how the American school system worked in comparison to Angola’s.

“It’s really different than back home,” says Neila. “Back home you don’t go to school as long. In my country, we have six periods, not nine.”

But in the last three years, the young women have persevered, are now able to speak English fluently and have made lots of friends. While they are unsure of when and where they will attend college, they say they are happy to have graduated.

“It’s just a great feeling,” says Nicole.

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