Twin sisters from Tinian have gotten into their dream school, Harvard University, and are spending their last summer at home before flying to Boston, Massachusetts, for their first fall semester.
Cielo and Isa Long, the 17-year-old daughters of Arley Long and Phillip Long from Carolinas Heights, Tinian, opened their acceptance letters together.
“At first, I was extremely nervous because this was my top choice university, but when I opened the acceptance letter, I was shocked and unbelievably grateful,” Isa Long said. “I felt such a huge wave of relief, like all my efforts paid off and everything was worth it.”
“When I realized we were both accepted, I was in complete shock,” Cielo Long added. “I’ve always dreamt of this moment, but never thought it could possibly turn into my reality.”
How it started
Isa Long says their overseas dream began when the 7-year-old twin sisters watched an episode of “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” — a teen sitcom about twin brothers Zack and Cody Martin who live in a five-star suite at the hotel where their mother headlines as a singer.
“Harvard University was mentioned as one of Cody’s options for school, and I was interested from there on,” Isa Long said. “So, at around the same age, I wrote a letter to the university, mentioning how I want to apply when I’m older.”
The twin sisters went on to excel both in their academics and extracurricular activities in Tinian Elementary School and Tinian High School, turning what seemed impossible into victory.
Cielo Long was a member of organizations such as the National Honor Society, the American Red Cross and the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while advocating for youth as part of the CNMI Youth Congress and debating in mock trial.
Isa Long was student council president, National Honor Society vice president, the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps battalion commander and a Tao Tao Taga cultural dancer.
Aside from those leadership positions, Isa Long also founded a girl’s empowerment initiative called “Sisters of the CNMI,” a CNMI food bank called “The Ohala Foundation,” and a nail salon on Tinian called “Ha’ani Co Nails.”
“I pursued these activities because I genuinely enjoyed interacting with my community through each and every one of them,” Isa Long said. “I was able to help and make new relationships.”
Balancing all these activities, however, was not an easy feat for the sisters.
“Because I was so busy, it was hard to find time for myself, and stress was starting to consume most of my days,” Cielo Long said. “I turned to fitness as an escape and learned to appreciate the relationships I held close to my heart.”
“I dealt with some anxiety when it came to relationships, but I was able to find outlets to cope with my inability to feel included by learning how to be comfortable with my own company,” Isa Long said.
“I learned to give myself happiness before looking for it in others,” she added. “I also dealt with a lot of stress and pressure to do my best and at times it was more than exhausting, but again I trained myself to take breaks and focus on the things that made me happy and content.”
Planning for college
After all the challenges they faced, they are ready to brave college.
“Harvard was a reach for us, but we knew that we wanted to explore past our borders, and Harvard was the perfect opportunity to do so,” Cielo Long said.
She is looking forward to continuing her fitness journey and participating in Harvard’s debate team.
“I plan on concentrating in government. I have always been intrigued by the political realm here in the Marianas, and I look forward to diving into the field,” Cielo Long said.
“Serving my community has always been a privilege,” she added. “I want to dive into a field that allows me to continue serving my community in the future.”
Isa Long, on the other hand, wants to continue engaging with youth in any way that she can. Inspired by her mother, who is a nurse practitioner, she plans to major in biology as an undergrad before heading to medical school.
“I am a strong advocate for female empowerment and would love to inspire young girls to be confident leaders in their communities,” she said.
Bringing island culture
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics in 2020, only 0.118% of Harvard University’s student population are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders.
Despite this statistic, the twins are not afraid to share their culture and traditions with their peers.
“I hope to bring my islander uniqueness to Harvard — the morals and values that I have gained through my upbringing that have molded me into the person I am today,” Cielo Long said. “I hope to inspire others to take pride in where they come from and share common ground with people of different cultures.”
Isa Long added, “I plan to be heavily involved on campus and sell what I have to offer regardless of my background. Where I come from makes me more determined to be successful and not let any outside noise affect my aspirations.”
As days pass by, Cielo and Isa Long are becoming more nostalgic about home.
“I’m going to miss having peace and serenity at my disposal,” Cielo Long said. “I’ve never lived in a city before, and I know it won’t be the easiest adjustment.”
“I’m going to miss jogging around the beach and just feeling so calm and collected when I step out into nature,” she added.
“I will definitely miss the community on my island and the beautiful scenery we have here,” Isa Long said. “I will also miss the chill and laidback lifestyle.”
To handle homesickness, they are planning to call their family as often as they can.
With a few weeks remaining before school starts, Cielo and Isa Long plan to make the most of it.
Isa Long said, “I am reading as much as I can and studying to obtain a certification in personal training before classes start to make sure I’m still learning during my break before school.”
Cielo Long added, “Before leaving the island, I’m spending my summer with my loved ones and appreciating the island I’ve called home for the last 17 years of my life.”