A pair of Robstown natives have been making a name for themselves in the education system of Houston, leading two separate elementary schools to excellence in the past two years.

Amelia Cardenas-Aguilar and her younger sister, Cynthia Banda, are principals for a pair of elementary schools in the Houston Independent School District. Cardenas-Aguilar leads Sherman/Crawford Elementary School, while Banda is in charge of Ketelsen Elementary School.

During the past two years, the sisters have led their respective schools to “Exemplary” ratings from the Texas Education Agency.

Cardenas-Aguilar attributes that to her staff, as well as a strong drive to succeed she said was instilled by her parents, Hilario and Olivia Cardenas.

“It’s that work ethic that we picked up, and we got it from them,” Cardenas-Aguilar said.

Hilario Cardenas, a musician who only went to school up to the third grade, owned a restaurant in Robstown, Larry’s Fine Home Dining, that was located at the original site of Joe Cotten’s Barbecue. Cardenas-Aguilar and her sister both worked in the restaurant, with Banda manning the register occasionally.

Cardenas-Aguilar said she also worked in the fields with her family when necessary.

She later went off to college and began her pursuit for a job in the education field.

“With a lot of effort and hard work, I still made it,” she said, admitting that she was not an exemplary student while in high school.

“I always had it in me, but perhaps not as an ‘A-plus’ student,” she said.

Banda, who has a 33-year-old daughter who is a teacher as well, said having the unwavering support of her parents during her childhood is what ultimately drove she and her sister to strive for continued success as administrators with the Houston ISD.

The sisters both have husbands and families of their own, as well.

“They were very supportive,” Banda said. “They just instilled a lot of moral values, and asked ‘Who do you want to be in life? What do you want to accomplish?”

Banda also gave credit to her staff at Ketelsen Elementary for the school’s success.

“I love my staff - they’re awesome,” she said. “I’m more proud of them than I am of myself.”