Now as she prepares to graduate as a member of the class of 2020 at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, Maxima Pacheco remembers what it was like when she began attending the Takoma Park, Maryland school four years ago. 

“When I came in as a freshman, it was scary. I came into a school (where) I didn’t know anyone,” she said.

But she admitted there was one familiar face in the school’s hallways – her twin sister Maria.

“It was nice to have my sister there. I wasn’t alone,” said Pacheco, who said that she and her sister Maria formed a mutual support system for each other during their years at Don Bosco Cristo Rey. “It’s really great to have her. I was never alone during my time in high school.”

The Pacheco twins, who are not identical, had earlier attended eight years of elementary school together, then after four years together at Cristo Rey, including taking the same classes, they will graduate together, and then both will be attending the University of Maryland at College Park. Their older brother Jose is now a junior at the University of Maryland, studying economics.

During their years at Don Bosco Cristo Rey, the Pacheco sisters even did a community service project together, picking up trash along the Potomac River, where they were joined by their parents, Jose and Reina Pacheco. She said they made a game out of it, to see who could pick up the most trash.

“My dad’s very competitive,” she said.

Maxima Pacheco noted how family support is part of the fabric of her life. The Pacheco family lives in Lanham and attends Mass at another “Cristo Rey” – Christ the King Parish in Silver Spring, where Maxima has helped teach catechism classes to sixth graders. Her parents were both born in El Salvador, and their three children were born in the United States. Jose Pacheco works as a parking assistant in Washington, D.C., and Reina Pacheco cleans houses.

“They would always tell me words of encouragement. They taught me never to give up, especially at this time,” she said.

Pacheco said it was challenging when Cristo Rey had to switch to online learning this spring, as it and other school campuses had to close following safety restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We tried to make the best of it,” she said, noting that students have been keeping in touch through social media, and her graduating class maintains the special bond of friendships that the classmates made during their years together there.

At the University of Maryland, Maxima Pacheco plans to study criminology and criminal justice, with a double major in chemistry. She said her favorite classes at Cristo Rey were math and chemistry.

“I’m planning to pursue a career as a forensic chemist,” she said.

Her sister Maria plans to major in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland.

During her years at Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Maxima Pacheco excelled in academics, and is graduating as the salutatorian of her class. She served as president of the National Honor Society at Cristo Rey and helped tutor other students there.

“The teachers (there) taught me everything I need to know academically and personally,” she said, noting how they are always available for students. “You can talk with anyone in the school whenever you need anything,” she added.

She joined classmates in preparing and serving food to the homeless at a local church.

Pacheco also was a captain on Cristo Rey’s soccer team, and played forward or right midfielder.

“My teammates were the best. We had so many fun moments. Practices were fun and games were fun,” she said.

Like all Don Bosco Cristo Rey students, Pacheco participated in the school’s Corporate Work Study Program, where students work at leading businesses and institutions on some days of the week, gaining professional experience and helping to pay for part of their education at the Catholic high school, which is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco.

For her Corporate Work Study experience, Pacheco did filing for trademark and patent cases at Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, P.C., a Washington, D.C., law firm, and the year before that, she worked as a receptionist at Cook Ross Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland, a consulting firm.

Pacheco said she gained confidence and workplace skills in that program, and she said that now as she prepares to graduate from Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, “I feel like I’m prepared for the adult world.”

And as she begins her studies at the University of Maryland, she again won’t be alone, as she is joined by her twin sister Maria as they begin the next stage of their school journey, pursuing different majors, but still together.