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Ivy League competes for twin Hilo scholars


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Besides sharing attractive identical looks and shy personalities, twin sisters Jasmine K. and Nicole K. Casart of Hilo make straight As and will attend the same prestigious college on scholarship.

The pair even won the same award recently, given to 800 outstanding black American high school seniors by the National Achievement Scholarship Program. They each won $2,500. The competition has been conducted and partially financed by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. for 45 years.

The Hilo High School seniors were offered scholarships from a total of nine colleges they applied to, but are now trying to decide among their top three picks — Harvard University, Dartmouth College and Stanford University — which also offered to cover room and board, said mom Gabrielle Casart.

"I'm thrilled with them. They make straight As in everything, even in calculus, which is not their favorite, and they take AP (advanced placement) courses. I'm in awe of them," she added.

The girls, who grew up attending Hilo public schools, are leaning toward writing careers, but Nicole Kuu Lei Nani Casart said she is also considering publishing, because "you get to read all day and get paid for it."

"This is going to be the first long-term time we're going to be away from home, so that will be hard, but Nicole and I will still have each other," Jasmine Kuu Lei Aloha Casart said.

The twins credit their parents for keeping their minds sharp, even during summer vacations, Nicole said.

As a longtime librarian at the Laupahoehoe Library, Gabrielle Casart said she instilled in her daughters the love of books by reading together out loud.

"We made sure they had a quiet place to study," and they developed "an incredible work ethic," she said. "They spur each other on. Parents have to take a more active role in their children's education, not just leave it to the schools. We made sure they did their homework."

Gabrielle added: "And you have to let them know you love them, no matter what. We always said, 'Do your best. You don't have to be the best, just do your best.'"

William Casart, a carpenter, said he is so proud of his daughters "my feet don't touch the ground." He called himself "Mr. Mom" while he stayed home during the first 10 years of his girls' life, and "I gave them rules" or values instead of expensive birthday presents.