Looking at the big picture has enabled identical twins Eriona and Fiona Kastrati to achieve more than most 19 year olds. The Bronx, N.Y., natives, whose parents immigrated to America from Kosovo when they were teenagers themselves, were the first in their family to go to college. Although their parents had little formal education, they always emphasized the importance of earning a degree and encouraged their daughters to pursue careers that would ensure their futures.
The two took that advice to heart. At 16, they graduated from high school, thanks to their characteristic tenacity and vision. Following a schedule developed by Eriona, and against the recommendations of the school administrators, the twins started each weekday at 7 a.m. and took nine back-to-back classes, with no break for lunch.
“I went online to see what requirements were necessary to graduate and we proposed the schedule,” Eriona said. “Our principal saw our motivation, our drive, and there was no reason to keep denying us.”
“We were the first ones to graduate early from our high school, so they never heard of this before,” Fiona added.
Despite their rigorous schedule, Eriona and Fiona also took college classes after school, or played volleyball, where they were starters on their school’s varsity team.
“My dad would bring us a turkey sandwich every day, that would be our only food until we went back home at 7 or 8 p.m.,” Fiona said. “We were extremely exhausted, but I would do it all over again.”
The girls came to Niagara University as sophomores after the COVID pandemic changed their original plans.
“We liked the location of it,” Eriona said. “We like city life, and it’s right next to Toronto and Buffalo. Coming from a city like New York City, we align more to city life.”
Their choice of majors—Eriona earned her degree in finance and a minor in economics, and Fiona earned hers in international management—were based more on their holistic future goal of financial security rather than a particular career path. Also, keeping that big picture in mind, the girls wanted their skills to complement the other’s.
“I wanted to do a different major than Eriona, because we’re a team,” Fiona said. “We have the same goals and we’re entrepreneurial. We didn’t come to college just to get a career, we’re trying to build a legacy for ourselves and trying to make our parents proud.”
For Eriona, the ability to manage money and build wealth was a key motivator in choosing her major, and her aptitude for math helped her successfully complete her undergraduate studies early. Fiona chose international management because of her love of travel and her desire to someday own a global company. She has already established a business as a lash technician, becoming certified last summer to make use of the extra time she had around an internship she was doing with Aflac.
After graduation, Eriona will begin a two-year rotational program with Citibank in its New York City headquarters. She was accepted into the highly competitive program after an internship in the company’s Getzville, N.Y., office, and several rounds of interviews. Once she completes the program, she will be able to take on a position within the finance department, where her rotations will take place.
Fiona is still considering her options—law school or graduate school—but knows that she will pursue at least one advanced degree.
Both girls credit the kindness and expertise of their professors with helping them plan for their future, which just might include being listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30, said Fiona.
“We always have big dreams, we’re always busy,” she said. “It’s good to stay busy, because that means you’re working toward your goal.”