Holyoke twins’ ‘Two-ition’ fund nears $30K in donations

  • Holyoke twin sisters Angela, left, and Thamarre Laroche, whose first language was Haitian Creole when they entered the E.N. White Elementary School 13 years ago, are bound for Howard University in Washington, D.C. FOR THE GAZETTE/STEPHEN FAY

For the Gazette
Published: 6/28/2021 8:26:48 PM

HOLYOKE — Early this month, Angela Laroche and her twin sister Thamarre faced the painful possibility of walking away from four-year scholarships to Howard University, the historically Black university in Washington, D.C., that is Vice President Kamala Harris’ alma mater.

Even with their scholarships, a small loan and grant-covered tuition, the 18-year-old sisters still had to come up with more than $10,000 each to cover room and board, books and personal expenses for each year. Their single mother, who brought her girls to the United States from her native Haiti when they were 5, provides home care on a per diem basis and lacks the resources to make the twins’ financial challenge go away. So, Angela and Thamarre went to work on it — literally — each taking on two part-time jobs.

They went after foundation grants and work-study opportunities and opened an account at Westfield Bank for contributions to the “Laroche Two-ition” account. A news story about their plight appeared in the Gazette’s June 4 edition. A few days later and upon graduation from the Paulo Freire Social Justice High School in Chicopee, the sisters started receiving notes of encouragement and donations.

“At first,” Angela said, “small increments: $100, $50, $40, another $100. My fifth-grade teacher offered to pay for my books.”

“A lot of things were falling into place,” Thamarre said.

Then came a call from the neighbor who helped the twins set up their “Two-ition” account. They’d received another contribution — an anonymous donation of $20,000. The donor’s representative, also anonymous, said the donor “saw the article” and was “moved to action.”

In a follow-up note to the neighbor, the donor’s rep said the struggles and sacrifices of the twins’ mother “brings to mind the generations of Black folks in this country who have been willing to suffer and lay down their lives for freedom and civil rights that only their descendants would know.

“We send our greatest admiration and excitement for Angela and Thamarre as they embark on the lives of promise made possible by their extraordinary mama.”

“I told my grandmother,” Angela said, “and she was crying and praying and saying ‘Thank you, God.’”

Going to Howard University, Thamarre said, “feels like what we should be doing. Coming from a low-income, minority family, we want to break the chain of financial instability and no education.”

Donations to their Westfield Bank account continue to come in, and the Laroche sisters are salting it away for next year and the following year. But the public response to the twins’ acceptance to Howard hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. A man in his 60s posted a comment that the sisters’ success was “fishy,” and that a white student with a 4.0 GPA would not have had such a smooth ride.

“I was confused,” Thamarre said. “Nothing came easy for us. But the support we received outweighs the hate.”

“There are still a lot of good people in the world,” Angela added.

That’s for sure, as a retired UMass professor just contributed $5,000 to their education account. As of Thursday, the balance stood at $28,970.


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