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Grasso Tech twins motivated to make family proud

Groton — Kelly and Kevin Duarte, 18-year-old Groton twins and seniors at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, grew up side by side, going to school together and enjoying the same activities. 

The two both love playing soccer, fishing and going on walks at Bluff Point State Park or on the beach with their family, and they always have each other to lean on.

"You’re never alone, so you always have someone there if you need to talk to anybody or go anywhere," Kelly said of being a twin.

Now, after growing in confidence over their four years at Grasso Tech, the two are about to embark on different career paths next year to pursue their passions.

Kevin, who came to Grasso Tech to pursue hairdressing and now works at Gabe’s Barber Shop in Mystic, plans after graduation to work at the barber shop for awhile and then apply for college in business to open his own barber shop.

Kelly, who initially thought she wanted to be a zoologist, said she discovered as a state officer for SkillsUSA that she loved talking and working to build teamwork. She plans to major in visual communications at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven to prepare for a marketing and advertising career and will play soccer in college.

The twins have pursued a host of activities while in high school. Kelly has served as a National Honor Society president, a varsity soccer and lacrosse player, and works in a supervisory role at Dick's Sporting Goods in Waterford, while Kevin plays indoor track and soccer, is a member of SkillsUSA and works in the barber shop.

They say their motivation to work hard comes from their family

"I always have this drive to make them proud, and I just want to be successful," Kelly said.

They said they learned their strong work ethic from their mother, who is from El Salvador and has permission to work and stay in the United States and is continuing a long journey to citizenship. 

"She’s probably the most hardworking person I've ever known," Kevin said. "She raised all of us by herself, and she had multiple jobs to support us, and I just want to make her proud."

Their three older siblings pursued carpentry, plumbing and drafting at Grasso Tech and established successful careers after graduation, and the school has represented for their family the opportunity to be successful, they said.

Kelly, who is in the bio-environmental technology trade, said the school built her confidence, instills professionalism in its students and provides the opportunity to essentially "touch the world." She has helped build an aquaponics system, worked as a docent at Mystic Aquarium and gone on trips to museums, sewage plants and an arboretum.

Kevin said he also became more confident at Grasso Tech. In his first two years honing his craft, he learned the basics of hairdressing, while in his junior and senior year he started getting clients and meeting new people. He said knowing what kind of hairstyles his clients want and being able to deliver an end result they are happy with is a nice feeling.

Assistant Principal Don Concascia said the brother and sister stand out as kids he'd want his own children to meet.

"Their demeanor shows that they’re caring, they’re kind, they’re compassionate," Concascia said. "They look out for others."

Kelly and Kevin said that next year will be different, as they're so used to being on the same schedule, but the two plan to keep in touch by texting and Facetime next year, with Kelly hoping she can arrange her schedule to come home on the weekends.

They are planning a "bucket list" of fun activities, from fishing to going on a boat, to do this summer before they start their new paths.

With graduation coming up, they said they are excited for the new beginning and noted that they attended many graduations at Grasso Tech for their families, but this time they will be the ones receiving the diplomas.

"Now it's for us," Kevin said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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