If anyone knows the true meaning of perseverance, it is the 17-year-old McCorkle sisters, who recently graduated from Northwestern High School. The twins are now headed to New York University, but getting to this point was not easy.
Fewer than five months from completing their senior year in high school, Eleisha and Tonisha McCorkle’s mother, Tonya, passed away. They were by her side when it happened.
“We saw the monitor stop beeping,” said Eleisha, who then looked at her sister. “She cried first,” she said.
“I was trying to prepare for it the day before because that night that we found out she went into respiratory distress,” Tonisha said.
Their mother suffered from Sarcoidosis, an incurable disease that causes inflammation and affects multiple organs. When Tonya was pregnant, she was advised to terminate the pregnancy, but the girls said she chose their lives over hers. From birth, the bond between the three has been unbreakable.
“I just miss her voice, the only thing that keeps replaying in my mind,” Tonisha said.
PHOTOS: Twins overcome adversity, head to NYU
The girls are no strangers to adversity. When their father left when they were 7 years old, they had to juggle multiple responsibilities. Forgoing the average childhood, the girls were balancing schoolwork, duties at home and being caretakers for their mother.
“We’re built to be more mature for a reason,” said Eleisha, who eventually realized why her mother had them do so much when they were young. “She helped us try to get on our feet pretty early because she knew one day would be her last.”
When their mother passed away, the twins wondered how they would finish out the school year on a high note.
“There were times when we strongly considered quitting, especially after she passed away,” Tonisha said.
But, the girls soon realized that was not an option. Their mother wanted them to stay in school and excel, the way they always did. While that proved challenging at times, they worked hard to make it happen.
"I was determined for my senior year to maintain a 4.2 for every quarter," Eleisha said.
Together, they lived up to their own goals, maintaining high grade point averages between a 3.8 and 4.2 while working jobs to help pay the bills.
Since joining the Visual and Performing Arts program at Northwestern High and Hyattsville Middle prior to that, they found solace in art and will pursue the study at New York University. Their hard work and talent led to full-ride scholarships. Eleisha wants to use art for activism and social change. Tonisha wants to focus on art therapy, helping others to express themselves.
While the girls have scholarships to cover tuition and housing, they are struggling with ways to pay for other expenses. They have set up this GoFundMe page to help pay for books, supplies, meal plans and other necessities.