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Hermanas latinas show education can lead to professional success

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

A pair of Lorain Latina sisters is making a mark on the world after learning from their successful parents—Carissa and Alexia Romero now have left their native Lorain, but live either in Ohio or California to establish their careers. Carissa, the older sister, lives in the San Francisco area. Alexia just moved to Columbus.

Alexia, 26, began her legal career working as a federal law clerk for Federal Judge James S. Gwin in the U.S. Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland last year. She is now clerking for Chief Judge Ransey G. Cole at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which is based in Cincinnati, but Alexia works at the Columbus office. She is engaged.

Carissa, 28, is the associate director of PERTS, an applied research center at Stanford University that works with leading experts on academic motivation to raise student achievement on a large scale. In the process, PERTS conducts research that enables the agency to improve its programs and to expand what is known about academic motivation.  She was academically motivated to finish her doctorate in psychology last year.

“Motivating other students is my passion, and I feel lucky that it's also my career,” said Carissa, who lives in San Francisco with her boyfriend of three years. 

“Carissa and I were inseparable growing up,” recalled Alexia. “I was the younger sister by two years, so I just wanted to do everything that Carissa was doing. I was so jealous that she got to go to school that I had my parents put me in preschool as soon as I turned two years old.”

“We were (and still are) best friends, echoed Carissa. “Since I could talk, I would always tell my parents that I wanted a little sister, and my first memory ever is waiting at my grandma's house for my new sister to come home. I tried to teach her everything I knew and did my best to be the best big sister I could be. Once Alexia told me I was the ‘bestest sister ever,’ and I think that compliment meant more to me than any other compliment I've received.” 

The two did stay physically close for at least a couple of years while working on their postgraduate college degrees at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

“At Stanford, Carissa and I lived about 5 minutes away from each other. I lived on campus and she lived off campus,” said Alexia. “We each had our own circle of friends from our respective programs, but we also had a group of mutual friends. We hung out with each other at least once a week. I think we became even closer when we were living and going to school at Stanford.”

“I was here two years earlier, but we finished our degrees the same year (2013),” said Carissa. “We each had our own friends.  But we also had a group of mutual friends and hung out together with all three groups,” echoed Carissa.

The Romero sisters have supported each other through good and bad times, as well as pushed each other to succeed their entire lives. The two Lorain Latinas don’t see that ever changing, either.

“Yes, we are still very close, although I miss living in the same city as Alexia,” admitted Carissa. “It’s hard to say how we’ve influenced each other since our lives have always been so intertwined. I think we have been influencing each other our whole lives. As an older sister, I tried to teach Alexia everything I knew when I was growing up. Now that we’re older, she looks out for me too. Sometimes we switch roles, and I feel like she takes care of me, too.”

“We are still extremely close although we now live in different cities,” said Alexia. “We have supported each other throughout the years personally and professionally.”

Their parents, Joanette and Richard Romero of Lorain, are both successful professionals in their own right. Richard has owned the Latino Media Network for nearly 30 years, has served as a commissioner on the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, and has been active in local and national politics for decades.

Joanette has had a successful 30-plus year career in marketing, currently the Ohio market development manager for CenturyLink, which provides high speed internet, phone and TV services to homes and businesses. She also has worked for the Lorain Port Authority, the Cleveland Flats Development Corporation, and Innovative Graphics and Marketing. The couple met at Bowling Green State University while students there.

“Both of my parents focused on education when we were growing up,” said Alexia. “They emphasized how important school was for our future success. They told us that succeeding academically required hardwork and persistence. My dad especially would talk about how blessed we were to go to good schools and get a good education.”

Carissa and Alexia with parents,
Joanette and Richard Romero

“They emphasized education a great deal, but they weren’t strict,” said Carissa. “They encouraged us to do our best and helped us find useful strategies when we struggled.” 

“My parents were very supportive of our interests both academic and extracurricular,” added Alexia. “Carissa and I both played volleyball in grade school. Even though he didn't have any background in the sport, my dad was the assistant coach.”

Both women have ambitious goals, both personally and professionally. So where do they see themselves in another decade?

“In 10 years, I hope that, because of the work that PERTS has done, all students will understand how school matters to them, that they have control over their intelligence, and that they belong in an academic community,” said Carissa.  

“Ultimately, I want to have my law practice focus on human rights and/or immigration,” said Alexia. “I focused on these areas in law school. I could see myself working for the government or a NGO (non-government organization).”

While setting the bar high for themselves, the Romero sisters also hope to influence other young Latinas to pursue their goals and dreams.

“I hope I am showing other young women that hard work and persistence in life can pay off,” said Alexia. “I would tell them that accomplishing any goal requires commitment. I would emphasize that reaching a goal is not a linear progression. There will be setbacks, obstacles, and failures. It is important not to get discouraged and keep going because you can do it!”

“I would tell them how smart you are is up to you. If you want to be smarter, challenge yourself as much as possible and make many mistakes,” said Carissa. “Pursue your education for your own reasons. Decide why you want to have an education, and keep that in mind when things get hard. Is that reason giving back to your community, being a role model for others in your community, contributing something meaningful to society? Know that reason and let it drive you to pursue your goals and take on new challenges.” 

At the pace they’re setting now, the world may hear a lot more from the Romero sisters in the decades to come.

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/16/14 19:39:34 -0700.




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