From ESOL to the Ivy Leauge: The Story of Two Friends and Their Journey


Lisbet and Alberto at their favorite restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory, celebrating their college acceptances.

By Paola Arriaza, Staff Writer

   You might have seen Alberto Figueroa and Lisbet Sanchez walking side by side in the hallway together, presumably laughing at some inside joke only the two of them share. It is no doubt that you’ve often mistaken them for twins. But Alberto and Lisbet are a pair of close friends that are preparing to embark on the journey of going to two different elite colleges.  

   Alberto and Lisbet have known each other since middle school. Truth be told they did not start off as friends. “In 6th grade Alberto was my enemy,” stated Lisbet.  

Alberto and Lisbet in middle school, at Citrus Grove Middle School.

   “Lisbet and I were always competing to be the best,” added Alberto. It was not until high school that Alberto and Lisbet started being friends. “Almost every class I had, she was in, so naturally we started talking,” claimed Alberto. Slowly but surely a friendship developed.  

   Alberto and Lisbet, like many other students from Miami High, are not originally from Miami. Alberto is originally from Olancho, Honduras, and Lisbet from Holguin, Cuba. Life in Honduras wasn’t easy for Alberto; he had to flee Honduras for his safety. In the United States Alberto worked hard, in the hopes to one day having a better life for him and his mom. “I didn’t want to waste the sacrifice my mom made for me, so I was determined to do well to try to make her proud,” he said. 

   Lisbet and her family were no different. She had to make the hard decision to leave her country and with it, the security of everything that she knew. “Leaving Cuba was a mission,” stated Lisbet. She had to get a visa to go to Mexico and then cross the border by foot and seek refuge in Texas. “The first few years in Texas it was hard not knowing English, but every day I would go home and practice,” she claimed.  

   No doubt both Lisbet and Alberto never let language barriers stop them; rather the obstacles motivated them to keep pushing. Today, both are currently taking AP English Literature, a true testament to how far they have come. 

   Lisbet and Alberto are both regarded as the top of their class, each having taken more than 15 AP’s and never settling for anything less than an A. So, when college application time came around, no one had any doubts that they would get into their dream schools. Both Lisbet and Alberto got into their respective schools through early decision. Applying to early decision can be stressful since your acceptance is binding, but both Alberto and Lisbet felt like it was the best decision for them. 

   Lisbet got into Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, and is planning on majoring in materials science. Lisbet explained that she knew Cornell was the school for her after doing a selective CATALYST summer internship with them. “Through the internship I was able to speak with some professors and envision what my life there would be like,” she stated. 

   Alberto, on the other hand, committed to Rice University, in Houston, Texas, through early decision. Alberto originally applied through the highly selective Quest Bridge scholarship program but wasn’t offered a spot. “Although initially discouraging,” explained Alberto, “it worked out for the best.” Through a similar process Alberto did for Quest Bridge, he was offered an opportunity to apply to one school early decision. Considering his many options, Alberto applied to Rice, feeling that his supplemental essays were the strongest for that school. Unsurprisingly, Alberto was accepted to Rice for the fall semester.  

   Ironically, although Rice is known for their excellence in materials science research, Alberto intends to major in astrophysics and is considering a possible future in either engineering or medicine. “My uncle was a doctor. Growing up I looked up to him a lot, so I think it would be a full circle moment if one day I became a doctor like him,” he said. 

   Although they are going to miss each other next year, Alberto said he couldn’t be happier for Lisbet. “I know how hard she worked for this,” he stated. “I can’t wait to visit her and the cows next year.”  

   It’ll be weird not having Alberto alongside me next year,” added Lisbet, “but I’m so proud of him. We’ve both come a long way since middle school.”