Sandi and Candi Bastien

My name is Sandi Bastien, and I have an identical twin sister named Candi Bastien. Both, my sister and I, attended the University of Florida in 2008, and in 2013 we graduated as Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship scholars.

Since the first grade, we both knew we wanted to attend the University of Florida and become Gators.  During our senior year of high school, my sister and I were admitted to the University of Florida. Words cannot describe the joy we felt when we received our admission letter to the top university in the state of Florida. However, this joy was quickly overtaken by stress and confusion. My sister and I did not know how to pay for college and other related expenses since we were both first-generation students. We had many dreams and aspirations but lacked the financial means and clear path to accomplish our goals. We knew we wanted to be Gators, but we did not know how we were going to pay for it. 

Obtaining a part time job, taking out loans and applying for scholarships were all realistic options. Our single mother could not pay for two separate tuitions bills whilst being responsible for her own living expenses. Nonetheless, during this challenging time, we learned about the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship program (MFOS). At the time, all we really knew was that the program was designed to assist low-income students who were the first in their family to attend college. When we first read about the program, we were disheartened by the thought that only one of us could qualify for the program; nevertheless, through additional research, we later found out that both of us could participate. We jumped, screamed and hugged each other so intensely our mother came running down the hall in a panic. This program was our saving grace and we thought it was too good to be true—much to our disbelief, it was not.

After joining the MFOS program, we received help in numerous ways. MFOS is a program designed to set every student in the path for success. The program not only provided us the financial backing to pay for tuition, room and board, etc., but it also helped us manage our stress, while building in each of us a foundation for achievement. Moreover, the staff made sure we thrived in college by incorporating different workshops and strategies aimed toward increasing competencies in areas such as personal finance and budgeting.

I cannot imagine having to work a part-time job and simultaneously complete a college education successfully. MFOS allowed my sister and me to focus solely on our studies without bearing the weight of going to work when there were at times a six-page paper or test due the next day!

Aside from the financial and personal development benefits MFOS had to offer, the staff also genuinely cared about each student. The staff saw us not as numbers, rather as individual students with unique stories that needed assistance and invested in our potential. In their eyes, we were the next scientist that could find the cure to cancer one or a future President of the United States. They believed in each and every one of us.

A testament to this is seen in my first semester of my junior year. I was hospitalized due to a major compound fracture of my tibia and fibula leading to respiratory issues. My accident resulted in me being admitted to the ICU. Furthermore, for the following three months I was unable to bear any weight due to the severity of the incident. This was a major setback. Aside from my family, Dr. Leslie Pendleton was the person who stayed in contact with me throughout this difficult time. Dr. Pendleton, as well as other staff, helped me transition back into school and supported me which allowed me to pass my courses.  Dr. Pendleton not only visited me in Ocala, but she went as far as making all of my instructors aware of the accident so that they could work with me. Because of her efforts, I can proudly say that I passed all of my spring term courses.

As of today, my sister and I are UF graduates doing what we love to do, caring for others. We are Gator nurses at UF Health Cancer Hospital (Shands). This is not the end of our education, only the beginning. Looking ahead, becoming ARNPs in women’s health are our future goals. We both have two children who can look at us as their role models knowing anything is possible in life. They will not be able to participate in the MFOS program, but they will know that because of MFOS, their mothers were part of something unique and great. They will know that MFOS allowed their mothers to realize their academic goals. Without the help of MFOS, my sister and I would not know where we would be today. We were the first in our family to attend and successfully graduate college, and we owe it all to the support the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship provided us.

Thank you, from the Bastien Twins, Sandi and Candi.