MONTCLAIR, N.J. (PIX11) – To achieve your goals, you have to have heart. The Vasquez sisters have proven their heart, especially after what they endured in their home country in Venezuela trying to study medicine.

“We faced severe interruptions in our education due to all the political turmoil,” said 26-year-old Andrea Vasquez.

“It was very difficult to have a life and also to continue our education over there,” said 27-year-old Maria Jesus Vasquez.

It was made worse by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then that their parents made the brave decision to come to the United States.

“We got a lot of opportunities in this country,” said Maria Jesus Vasquez.

At first, the sisters had to live in separate boarding homes in Jersey City, and they taught themselves how to speak English.

They went on to enroll at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, where they quickly entered into a scholarship program that would put them on track to master’s degrees in public health. Once they receive permanent immigration status, they will be on their way to medical school to become doctors and researchers.

“We didn’t give up on our dreams and goals,” said Maria Jesus Vasquez.

The sisters plan to take their studies from South Bronx to Morningside Heights and Columbia University. They were among 30 Latino medical students honored Thursday at Montclair State University by the American Heart Association’s Hispanic Serving Institutions scholarship program.

“We are trying to identify young Latino talent and provide them opportunities they sometimes don’t have,” said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez of the American Heart Association. 

“One of the things we wanted to impact is representation and seeing more diverse faces when you go to a doctor’s office,” said Ruth Clements of Quest Diagnostics, which helps to sponsor the program.

The Vasquez sisters are grateful for the doors it has opened for them.

“Everything is possible,” said Andrea Vasquez. “You have to have perseverance, [be] hard-working, and also you have to continue working toward your goals.”

“I would say don’t stop trying to reach your goals,” said Maria Jesus Vasquez.