By Tyronda James
Nasmil Campusano, separated 20 years ago from her conjoined twin Jazmin, was celebrated as a graduate of the Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy (BLLA).
Rochester City School District (RCSD) staff and administration came together on Friday, May 29 to celebrate and recognize this very special young lady, presenting her with a cap and gown and gifts honoring her achievement.
“Today we are celebrating our seniors,” said Jacqueline Senecal, Director of the Bilingual Academy. Senecal said recognizing Nasmil in this way was very important.
“She is graduating with her high school diploma and gets to have her diploma in the United States. It’s a huge accomplishment,” Senecal said.
Senecal said altogether three students are graduating from the program, “we decided that we were going to do something special for them by doing a car parade, presenting them with their cap and gown and a door sign. And also some gifts that the staff put together for them,” she said.
The sisters were conjoined face to face at the breastbone and abdomen sharing just one liver. Nasmil and her sister underwent a 7 and-a-half hour surgery in January of 2000 at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Paterson, New Jersey. The surgery, the first of its kind was successfully performed by a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and surgical nurses. The separation surgery divided their one liver into two smaller, functioning organs. She celebrated her 21st birthday just the day before on Thursday, May 28.
“Nasmil was a conjoined twin that was operated on in New Jersey. When just seven months old and the type of surgery that they had it only has a sixty percent survival rate for only one of the twins,” said Senecal.
“So for her and her sister to be here and experiencing this. It’s beautiful!”
Nasmil was accompanied by her sister and mother Xiomara Frias, Dominican Republic natives. The school’s principal, Senecal spoke for Nasmil at times.
Nasmil said that she was “very happy” to see all her family, friends, and so many people she didn’t even know, come out to say congratulations to her.
“These are the people that are always there to help her out. And push her along. So that way she can be here today,” said Senecal.
Campusano said this occasion was important to her, especially during the pandemic and not being able to go to school. “It’s nice,” said Campusano. She said a lot of hard work went into reaching this goal.
“She’s overwhelmed. She feels awesome that she gets to graduate,” said Senecal.
Nasmil arrived at the BLLA, located at 1 Edgerton Park, Rochester, NY 14608, in January 2018. A K-12 transitional program, its targeted instruction for Spanish speaking students is designed to bridge the academic transition of Spanish-speaking, English Language Learners through bilingual instruction.
“The Bilingual Academy is a program within the Rochester City School District that houses newcomer students, who come to us and they’re with us for about 18 to 24 months. until they get a good foundation of the English language. And they move on to their home school,” Senecal said.
“The program is very important. Especially for the city of Rochester. A lot of these students are coming in, being moved from where they lived. And then on top of that have a lot of these students who had tragedy in their life, either the hurricane or the earthquakes that we’ve had lately in Puerto Rico. That’s been a huge impact in their lives. So, to come here and spend time with us and get to know us. A small school, we became a family with them. It’s a great way to get them accustomed to how it is to live in the United States and be able to be part of the community,” Senecal said.
“Our programming is closing unfortunately at the end of this year.”
The Bilingual academy will be closing as part of RCSD school and program reductions. Senecal said this year has been a big emotional rollercoaster. She said being new to the RCSD, being with the students and getting to know them has been a big part of her life.
“And then on top of that getting to know their personal lives and what they’ve been through. It makes such a huge connection. It’s sad to see the school close,” said Senecal.
“They (the students) haven’t been in the country for very long. And this is the only school that they’ve known for the last year and a half to two years, so for them it’s something really special and it’s a huge accomplishment to be graduating.”
Senecal said they would also present two other graduates with gifts and a drive-by parade. She said knows that “this is something that will always be embedded in the memories of the students.”
“We have to celebrate every moment and especially for Nasmil. It’s a huge, huge day for her. I can’t wait to see her walk across the stage on the 24th of June!”