BELEN — Belen sisters, Jenee and Tonya Madrid, are on the same path in life, with Jenee leading the way.

In 2017, Jenee graduated from Belen High School with her high school diploma, and from The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus with associate degrees in business administration and integrated studies.

This year, her younger sister, Tonya, 16, has upped the ante by graduating a year early from BHS, as well as earning the same associate degrees as her sister.

isters Jenee and Tonya Madrid follow the path to success. Both graduated from Belen High School and with an associates degree from The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. Jenee earned her masters degree this spring and is contemplating a doctorate.

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Sisters Jenee and Tonya Madrid follow the path to success. Both graduated from Belen High School and with an associates degree from The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. Jenee earned her masters degree this spring and is contemplating a doctorate.

“I always talked to (Jenee). She was on a good path, had a good plan,” Tonya said.

While attending high school, Tonya maintained a 4.0 grade point average and a 4.2 at UNM-Valencia.

Initially, Tonya was thinking about majoring in education but a professor at the campus encouraged her to pursue business or English.

“I liked working in the business classes,” she said. “I’m thinking about something in (human resources) or management.”

After getting her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2019 from the UNM Anderson School of Management, Jenee continued on to get her master’s degree there as well this spring.

“When I finished my bachelor’s, I was ready to graduate. I was done with school,” Jenee said. “But then I thought, ‘Oh, just apply.’”

She was accepted into the graduate program and now that she’s finished that, Jenee is again saying she’s done with school.

“I kind of want to enjoy life, but …” She pauses. “A PhD might be good.”

Their mother, Sonya Madrid, said she’s very proud of both her daughters, her eyes welling up with tears.

“They have both worked so hard. They made my job as a parent easy,” Sonya said. “They knew what they wanted and knew what they had to do to get there. I prayed a lot; Momma did a lot of praying. We all did.”

For anyone else considering dual enrollment to earn college credits or a degree while still in high school, Sonya urged them to be persistent.

“Don’t give up,” she said. “We heard a lot of nos.”

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.