First-generation twins form a sisterly support system

Photo of twin sisters Neisha and Shaina Cothiere.

Haitian immigrants Neisha and Shaina Cothiere are taking on college together at La Salle.

Identical twin sisters Shaina and Neisha Cothiere weren’t planning on attending La Salle University together. The first-generation college students who emigrated to the United States from Haiti with their family in 2014 wanted to establish their identities at separate colleges.

“I’ve been with (Neisha) my whole life, ever since I was in my mother’s womb,” said Shaina, ’23. “Even if we didn’t say it out loud, we both felt we needed our own identity in college. We knew we would major in different fields. I wanted to go to another college because I wanted to be just Shaina for the first time in my life, and she wanted to be herself, too, without us competing.”

The sisters had a change of heart after they spent a week at La Salle prior to their junior year at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School and while participating in the Accounting Career Awareness Program (ACAP). There, they interacted closely with La Salle faculty and students in the accounting program.

Photo of Shaina Cothiere
Shaina Cothiere, ’23

Motivated by the experience, the sisters became excited by the possibility of attending La Salle. When they realized that pursuing different majors would likely mean they could establish their own social circles, they committed to La Salle and then spent seven weeks during the summer prior to their first year studying in the Academic Discovery Program, which helped ease their transition to higher education as first-generation students.

“The program made sure that we were socially, academically, and psychologically prepared for college,” said Neisha, ’23. “The fact I was able to relate to so many students from that program made me feel more welcome. The first fall semester wasn’t as challenging as I originally thought it would be because I had already met great people who share so much with me, and other first-generation students with similar backgrounds.”

Now in their sophomore years at La Salle, the sisters have established their individual identities at the 20th and Olney. Shaina is majoring in public health major and Neisha is studying accounting. They continue to support one another, as always.

“Shaina has been my shoulder to lean on whenever things get frustrating,” said Neisha, who is a member of the Business Leadership Fellows program. “Some of the classes I’m taking can get pretty overwhelming. I’m able to share my feelings with Shaina and she can share her feelings with me. It’s therapeutic.”

“Whenever I’m struggling in a class, we talk it out,” said Shaina. “Even though we’re in different majors with different curriculum, we find ways to support each other. I know college would be a lot harder if she didn’t go to the same school as me.”

Photo of Neisha Cothiere
Neisha Cothiere, ’23

Given their respective majors, the sisters are eyeing different career paths. Shaina’s goal is to become an epidemiologist who works to improve conditions in less-prosperous countries like her native Haiti. Neisha would like to gain experience doing public accounting with a firm before eventually using her degree across other industries, like health care.

One goal the sisters share is setting a good example for their 10-year-old brother, Darren, so that he will one day follow in their academic footsteps and attend college.

“I want to be sure my sister and I leave a legacy for our younger brother,” said Neisha. “I want him to pursue college and be great. A lot of the decisions I make, I make them because I know there’s someone looking up to me. I always make sure that I’m able to leave a positive legacy behind.”

—Patrick Berkery


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