Sitting side by side, wearing identical dark blue vests, their hair pulled back and smiles at the ready, the Canela sisters frequently elicit double takes in the lobby at Capital Community College.
Yuleisis, 21, and Yolienny, 19, don’t often work the same shift, but when they do, the family resemblance is hard to miss. “Can I help you?” each offers to visitors and students in turn.
In fact, these two student-workers share more than a strong resemblance and a job. They also share a common dream: to increase their English proficiency, earn an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s.
“I want to own my own business and do something with my life,” said Yuleisis, who plans to study accounting, but is also interested in languages.
She aspires to add Portuguese, Italian and French to her linguistic repertoire of Spanish and English. After earning an associate’s degree at Capital, she’d like to pursue a degree in teaching, possibly at the University of Connecticut.
Yolienny also has set her sights on a four-year degree from UConn after completing an associate’s at Capital. “If I don’t study to be a lawyer, I want to be a police officer,” she said.
The Canela sisters were born and raised in the Dominican Republic before moving to Connecticut two years ago. Yolienny attended Hartford’s Buckley High School for one year before graduating. Yuleisis, who graduated high school in the Dominican Republic, began her English studies in a Hartford adult education program.
“When she (Yolienny) finished high school, I said, ‘Let’s go!’” Yuleisis explains of their decision to enroll at Capital.
“We feel really comfortable here,” she continued. “Everyone is friendly, and they are interested in our futures. There are very good teachers and good tutors. They also provide a library and computers. They offer us a lot of resources to study and improve our knowledge.”
When they’re not attending class, each works a full-time job in restaurants. One sister takes evening classes; the other takes daytime classes. At home, they often study together.
“My sister helps me a lot,” Yolienny said.
“The first thing always is to study,” Yuleisis says of their priorities as working students. “I do my homework here (on campus) before I go home.”