Twin Sisters Overcome Challenges to Graduate Together

“The train has finally reached its destination,” exclaims Debra Joseph speaking about her and twin sister Deeger’s graduation from the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). Watching their virtual commencement ceremony together, the two were overwhelmed by the experience. Despite being twins, this was their first graduation together, and having overcome adversity along the way, the milestone held special meaning to them both. 

“My sister and I have been through a lot together,” says Deeger. In 2012, while enrolled at UVI, Deeger and Debra’s mother passed away and they lost three other family members within a short span. In 2015, Debra suffered an injury, and in 2017, the sisters lost part of their roof in the hurricanes. Adding to those hardships, the pandemic made it more challenging for them to keep up with their studies due to internet issues and lack of a personal computer. Happily, Debra was able to borrow a laptop from UVI. Throughout their journey the sisters always made sure to support one another. “We would stay up with each other to get our assignments done,” says Debra. “On days when I felt discouraged, my sister always encouraged me.” 

Now, with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, Debra plans to participate in UVI’s summer boost program to help prepare her for the workforce. She hopes to find work as a teacher’s aide or within the Department of Health. “I like helping people and interacting with different cultures,” she says. “I enjoy seeing people succeed.” 

Deeger is applying for jobs in the business field. With an associate degree she earned from UVI in 2009 and now a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, Deeger would like to work with computers, an interest she has had since high school. 

“Being in college together has brought us closer together,” says Deeger. Growing up, the sisters were in different classes, but at UVI they were able to take a few courses together even though they had different majors. 

In addition to encouraging each other, the sisters felt very supported by professors and staff at UVI. “I am thankful to Dr. Elizabeth Jaeger, Professor Vincent Cooper, Linda Wymer, Dr. Andrea Dorsey, the late Gene Emmanuel and the staff at the Center for Student Success,” says Debra. “My advisor, Dr. Sheena Walker, helped me tremendously. With my senior seminar project, Dr. Walker helped me every step of the way. Ms. Monifa Potter guided me as well. Ms. Angela Carty played a big role in helping me meet the math requirements for graduation and has kept in touch with me up to this day.” 

“My professors really motivated me to do my best,” says Deeger. “Professors Vincent Cooper, Francisco Depusior, and the late Gene Emmanuel were very encouraging and always made themselves available to students,” she says. 

Persevering in the face of life’s challenges while working hard to advance their education is a source of pride for the sisters. “God has played a major role in our lives, and we are thankful for our father that he is still with us.” Whatever the future brings, Deeger says of her twin sister, “We have each other’s back.”