South Florida twins to attend West Point
3 South Fla. family members to attend West Point
WESTON, Fla. – Like many sets of twins, Celine Gunderman and Whitney Gunderman are just inseparable.
"We're very close, yes!" they said at the same time.
Like many sets of twins, the Gundermans are choosing to attend the same college. Maybe more accurately in the case of these Cypress Bay High School seniors, one of the nation's most selective institutions, West Point, chose both of them.
Less than 100 students from the state of Florida will be accepted at the U.S. Military Academy this year out of more than 1,000 applications.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the twins to give them the news last Friday.
"The girls were clearly raised in a family where community service and active citizenship were valued," Schultz told Local 10 News. "I was honored to also have nominated their brother, Ryan, a few years ago."
Yes, that's right -- there will be three students at West Point from one South Florida family.
"He told us the first year is very difficult," said Whitney Gunderman. "A lot of it is the mental challenge. You can be physically fit, you can be academically ready, but it's that mental, they're going to try break you down. After they break you down they build you back up."
After a visit to their mother's home village in Uganda two summers ago, the twins were hooked on service and the love of country. Their mother has been in the United States for 24 years and constantly reminds her children how fortunate they are.
"Being here is a privilege," said Maria Nansamba, who is a nurse. "I let my children know that they are privileged to be here. The ability to serve and give back to a country that has given them so much, that's the greatest accomplishment they can have."
That's a message that hit home for the twins.
"We're representing soldiers now and soldiers then," Whitney Gunderman said. "That is something we'll learn to respect and continue to respect."
They're also hoping their accomplishment delivers a role model to young girls in Florida, especially African-American female students.
"I hope that we can have that same influence on others to challenge themselves," Celine Gunderman said.
"We had just over 23 percent women enter the class (266), only 20 of whom were from Florida and 14 percent African-Americans enter the class (169), only 10 of whom were from Florida," according to U.S. Military Academy Admissions Director Col. Deborah McDonald. "We had only two African-American women enter West Point last year from the state of Florida. This year, we have to date three African-American women from Florida offered admission."
The Gundermans aren't the only ones from Cyprus Bay accepted to West Point this year. Cullen Harper was also notified early. He's not sure he'll attend, as he waits for word of acceptance from the Naval Academy.
ROTC teacher Sgt. Major Jorge Cruz said if Harper joins the Gundermans there this fall, there will be six from Cypress Bay at West Point.
"This country is in good hands," said Cruz.
The Gunderman twins will try their hand at medicine in college, hoping to become doctors after becoming officers.
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