Twins Cross Academic Bridge to College Success

Jan. 17, 2008

Though she was encouraged by her dad to give community college a try, Eunice Odiase had other plans. She wanted the complete experience, all the excitement of a four-year university:  living away from home, new friends and unstructured (read:  not high school) academics.

She was looking for independence.

So when she received an early acceptance letter from UT Dallas, Eunice was thrilled.

The UT Dallas Academic Bridge Program

The catch, though, was that her identical twin sister Elaine hadn’t been accepted to the University yet, and like the old Irving Berlin song goes, nothing comes between these sisters.

“As soon as Eunice was accepted, I called about my application. We had similar grades, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t admitted too,” Elaine said.

As it turned out, Eunice’s paperwork was simply processed sooner; both were in.

At the time, the two young women, now 20, weren’t sure where they wanted to go to school. They’d looked at several universities, but none felt right. They both agreed that a higher power would lead them to the perfect fit, and, as fate would have it, that place turned out to be in their own backyard.

The Academic Bridge Program

Both in the top 10 percent of their graduating class at Plano East Senior High School, the girls had outstanding resumes of academic achievement and community involvement, so they applied to be part of UT Dallas’ Academic Bridge Program (ABP).

The ABP seeks to attract, support and retain students with high class rankings but who may not have completed the full university-track curriculum or met all the University’s entrance requirements.

Though Eunice and Elaine had both completed university-track curriculum and met all the University’s entrance requirements, they were eager to start their college experience early, during the summer after their high school graduation.

That’s when freshman Bridge students have the opportunity to live free of charge in on-campus housing for the months of June and July, and their tuition and fees are covered for up to nine semester hours.

The ABP features smaller classes, with 20 or fewer students per instructor. It also provides tutoring and supplemental instruction, campus orientation activities, extracurricular activities and field trips.

Eligible students must be ranked in the top 20 percent of their high school classes.

“When I heard about the ABP, I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience what college was all about, and our friends were jealous — especially because the summer after we graduated, we already had our own apartment,” Eunice said.

Sisters with a Mission

Eunice and Elaine’s family are no strangers to UT Dallas. The twins’ dad, Felix, graduated from the University in 1992 with a degree in electrical engineering.

The family, including mom Helen and younger siblings Felix, a freshman at Collin College and Deborah, a senior at Plano East, firmly believe in giving back to their community.

The twins are active in their church and take part in a West Dallas bus ministry, which drives children from local housing projects to church. They play with the kids, minister and provide meals. The sisters also teach Bible study and participate in hospital ministries.

Eunice and Elaine are bilingual and help mentor Spanish-speaking students from the Dallas Independent School District about the college application process and counsel them about the benefits of attending college.

In their spare time — if you can believe they have any — the sisters develop Web sites for local churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Big Plans

Both biology majors, the twins are in the pre-med program at UT Dallas. They hope to specialize in either surgery or obstetrics/gynecology.

In high school, they beat out hundreds of other classmates to win a spot in a clinical rotation class, and it was there that they developed a love for medicine.

Each completed Emergency Medical Technician training, as well as more than 120 hours of volunteer work in hospitals and nursing homes throughout North Texas.

Along the way they became Certified Nursing Assistants.

Now on the dean’s list at UT Dallas, Eunice and Elaine are active members of the University’s Health Occupations Students of America group, which helps prepare college students for careers in health and medicine. Eunice also happens to be vice president of that organization.

Both girls help mentor and tutor other students in the Bridge Program, and last summer they attended a LeaderShape Institute conference, where they learned about leadership strategies. They also got a chance to attend a medical school conference held at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

In the coming years, the self-motivated duo plan to focus on their studies, and they expect to apply for medical school in the spring of their junior year. Though they realize they may ultimately end up at separate medical schools and with separate lives as they enter the next phase of their journey, they have a common goal: to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Making a direct impact on the well being of another person — that’s important,” Eunice reflected. “It’s the most direct and positive way of helping people, and that’s what we want to do.”


Media contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu
More information on the Academic Bridge: (972) 883-2655

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The Odiase sisters had looked at several universities before UT Dallas, but none felt right. 

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