Promises Promises: Rusk TJC Citizens Promise class features two sets of twins

Feb 29, 2016 by

The newest class of Rusk TJC Citizens Promise scholars has TJC professors seeing double – twice.

Two sets of twins, (from left) Amanda and Allison Potter, and Mishal and Milan Patel, are part of the newest class of Rusk TJC Citizens Promise Scholars.

Two sets of twins, (from left) Amanda and Allison Potter, and Mishal and Milan Patel, are part of the newest class of Rusk TJC Citizens Promise Scholars.

Two sets of twins who graduated in May 2015 from Rusk High School recently completed their first semester at TJC, and they feel doubly blessed for being able to attend college without paying tuition.

Sisters Amanda and Allison Potter and brothers Milan and Mishal Patel said they had no plans to attend college until they received scholarships from the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise – now in its second year. The Rusk Promise covers up to two years at TJC for qualifying RHS students who graduate in the top 50 percent of their class and reside in Rusk ISD.

In the class of 2015, 60 students were offered scholarships to TJC and 42 students accepted.

For the Patel twins, who were born in India, the opportunity to obtain an associate’s degree already has them thinking about the next step – a bachelor’s degree. Both want to major in business, both are considering Texas A&M or the University of Houston – and they want to pursue the next academic step together at the same college.

“Without the scholarship, we would have gone from high school straight into the workforce,” the boys said. “We can see the value of an education and the earnings potential.”

Amanda and Allison are both pursuing medical career fields, but they’re choosing separate paths. Allison wants to become a radiologic technologist and complete her education in two years. Amanda wants to be a diagnostic medical sonographer, focusing on sonograms and the cardiovascular system.

“Basically, if we hadn’t gotten this scholarship, we wouldn’t have been going to college,” Amanda said.

Allison explained that for both of their career paths, they must meet freshman prerequisites before applying and receiving acceptance into their preferred medical specialties.

“We will have to apply to the programs and meet certain GPA and ACT scores,” said Allison.

While the Patel brothers, who were born just 45 seconds apart, are identical twins, the Potter sisters, born one minute apart, are “mirror twins.”

“Our mother didn’t know we were mirror twins until she saw a Dr. Oz show,” laughed Amanda.

In mirror twins, dominant traits are opposite. One twin is left-handed; the other right-handed. One parts her hair on the left, the other on the right. And when the girls get contact lenses, the prescription is the same for each girl, but reversed since the right eye of one is the same for the other sister’s left and vice versa.

The Patel brothers are identical twins and both are ambidextrous – they can use both their left and right hands for fine motor skills like writing.

“We think the same thing at the same time,” laughed Milan. “It just feels normal,” agreed Mishal. When asked about their reaction to the Promise fund when their counselor told them about the opportunity, all four began to speak at once.

“We were so excited.”

“We couldn’t believe this could happen in such a small town.”

While the Potter twins have always attended Rusk schools, the Patel twins said they just got lucky. Their family moved to Rusk from Galveston before their junior year in high school, and they did not know about the Promise program prior to enrolling.

One of the stipulations of the Rusk Promise is that students must have attended Rusk High School since the beginning of their junior year.

All four chimed in at once on their gratitude to philanthropist James I. Perkins and his wife Margaret, who created and funded the scholarship program.

“There are a lot of us from Rusk High School who would not be going to college without this program,” Allison said. Both sisters received $500 scholarships each from Rotary Club, which covered the cost of textbooks. While both Potter girls are taking the exact same classes throughout the day, each had to purchase their own set of classroom books, workbooks and ebooks. “No sharing books,” they laughed.

The girls are taking a hybrid class in medical terminology, which consists of half classroom, half online.

The Patel boys are taking the same classes, but at different times of the day. Their instructors get a break on identifying who is who.

They reported that their least expensive textbook was $50, and the most expensive topped $100.

Since they were born in India, Milan and Mishal are fluent in three languages: English, Hindi and a state language, Gujarati. They also speak some Spanish.

Milan can see himself someday as the CEO of a corporation with earnings in excess of $100,000.

“With this scholarship we earned, it is very helpful because our parents won’t have to worry about tuition. We won’t have to take out loans that will have to be paid back,” said Milan. “I am so glad to have this opportunity.”

The Potter girls commute in the same vehicle from their home near New Summerfield each day, and the Patel boys drive from Rusk to Tyler to attend classes also in the same vehicle. When asked who the “slow poke” in the family is when it is time to leave for school, laughter erupted and the twins pointed fingers at each other.

Rusk is the only city in Texas with a Promise program, and it is only the 22nd city in the nation.

“This is the best part of my job,” said Megan Cumbee, TJC coordinator of scholarship recruitment and retention, who serves as a liaison between TJC and Rusk Promise students. Ms. Cumbee is also a 2006 graduate of Rusk High School.

She said the RHS class of 2014, which was the first year of the program, included 35 students.

“Twenty-four returned for their second year,” said Ms. Cumbee. Some of the 11 students graduated from technical programs such as automotive technology and others transferred to other schools.

“Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 to remain on a Promise scholarship,” she said.

Ms. Cumbee recalled one student who did not do well her first semester and was not eligible for free tuition the second semester.

“The second semester she worked and paid for the tuition out of her own pocket,” Cumbee said.

“She came in and was really excited when she got her grades up. She wanted to make sure she was on a path to get the scholarship reinstated for this semester. She knew she could do better.”

Ms. Cumbee said it is not uncommon for parents of freshman and sophomore RHS students to call and ask questions about the program.

“I can already tell that the community is changing to a college mindset,” said Ms. Cumbee. “No doubt this program will build and add to economic development.”

She said the 2015 RHS graduates are pursuing a variety of career paths, from respiratory care and dental hygiene to nursing, sign language and game and simulation development as well as engineering and business.

As the Potters pursue medical careers and the Patels take business administration classes, they agree that free tuition for two years opened doors and opportunities they never anticipated. n

Terrie Gonzalez, publisher of the Rusk Cherokeean Herald, contributed this story.



Winter 2016

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