Despite being separated by four years and very different personalities, sisters Beverly and Cynthia Zambrano are best friends who share everything – and that includes their graduation from the University of Central Florida.
Beverly, 23, and Cynthia, 19, will both be awarded degrees during UCF’s spring commencement, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Beverly has earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and Cynthia a bachelor’s degree in information technology.
The sisters have always lived together, and that won’t change after graduation. Cynthia already has accepted a job offer from Google in Mountain View, Calif. Beverly is moving with her and will work on obtaining her teaching certification from the state of California.
“It will be an adventure,” Beverly said, “and I’ll get to share it with my best friend.”
They won’t don their caps and gowns the same day. Though she’s younger, Cynthia will collect her degree first, on Thursday morning with other graduates from the College of Engineering & Computer Science. Beverly will follow on Friday afternoon with the College of Education and Human Performance.
The sisters’ family is originally from Ecuador, though Beverly and Cynthia grew up in Hollywood, Fla. Their father, who lives in Spain, is traveling to UCF for commencement. Cynthia took a heavy course-load to make sure the sisters would graduate at the same time and he wouldn’t have to make two costly trips to the United States.
Cynthia has always been a meticulous planner, and that’s the reason they’re graduating the same semester, even if it is a day apart. She planned her high school studies so she would essentially have enough credit to earn her diploma after just three years, and then took college classes from Broward College during her fourth year of high school. After another year, she earned her associate degree from the state college.
Beverly finished at Broward College at the same time, but Cynthia was the first to apply to UCF. She’d researched university computer science departments before choosing to be a Knight.
“UCF has so many opportunities. It’s a large school and so many things to be a part of. That’s what made me apply and I’m so glad I was accepted,” Cynthia said. “I’m interning at Lockheed Martin right now, and that wouldn’t have happened if I were at UF.”
Meanwhile, Beverly had been offered a full scholarship to attend the University of West Florida. But when she heard Cynthia would be attending UCF – a university she’d considered while in high school – she gave it another look.
“I looked into the College of Education [and Human Performance] at UCF and it looked amazing,” Beverly said.
Both started fall 2014.
Cynthia was always focused, even as a child. In first grade, she and her classmates were asked to draw their future. She said the other girls drew weddings; Cynthia drew her college graduation.
Beverly initially planned to be a pediatrician, but realized her passion was working with children – not medicine. She’d been a babysitter and a tutor.
“When we were children I’d pretend to be Cynthia’s teacher and have conferences with my mom,” said Beverly, a soft-spoken woman whose excitement is palpable when she talks about her time in elementary school classrooms as a student-teacher in college.
“The professors I’ve had here were the perfect examples – they’d been in the classroom previously. They had that energy, that passion.”
Beverly and Cynthia have both excelled in their studies, and found time for other activities, too. Beverly is an officer in the Student National Education Association, and researched and defended an Honors in the Major thesis. Cynthia is a former vice president of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, co-founder and former president of Women in Tech, and a member of Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
They also both joined the Columbian Student Association’s dance team, performing traditional dances at UCF and throughout Orlando – because they wanted to do something else together.