GOODYEAR, Ariz. — What do you get when you mix five sets of twins, three valedictorians from among those twins and one high school graduating class amid a global pandemic? Some of the most resilient graduating seniors you’ll probably ever meet.
Great Hearts Trivium Preparatory Academy’s 2020 graduating senior class has that exact, unique combination. Audrey and Levi Barrett, Justin and Kayla Semenza, Rebecca and Samuel Striffler, Corinne and Nate Vasiloff, and Mackaria and Mackayla Weiss are all living proof that being a twin among five sets of twins may be interesting, but it doesn’t define them.
And just like how they won't let being a twin define them, being a graduating high school senior amid the COVID-19 pandemic won’t define them either.
Like most graduating seniors, the twins won't get to participate in traditional end-of-year activities. Most of the twins expressed disappointment at not being able to enjoy their senior prom. Some didn't get to finish their sport's season and others didn't get to say a real goodbye to their underclassmen friends before moving on to college.
"The biggest thing that hurt from corona was that we didn't know that it was going to be our last day of school or my last softball game. We didn't know it was happening so we didn't get to savor those last moments together as a class. I think going forward we will really appreciate the time we will get together. Or when we go to college, really appreciate those kinds of things more," Corinne said.
Coronavirus has also complicated their lives in ways that most of us don't ever have to worry about. The standards by which they are judged as twins, as opposed to as individuals, regarding schoolwork or other activities from teachers and parents has increased.
"Because we are going at the same speed through everything, we are being – not compared by our parents – but held to the same standard as each other, so sometimes that can get complicated," Kayla said.
Most are looking forward to the fall because of the independence that comes with college.
"I think that in order for us to chase what we have passions in – it kind of has to involve separate ways, just because we are so very different. Being grouped together holds us back sometimes," Rebecca said.
Rebecca's twin, Sam, said that seeing her at Thanksgiving and Christmas would be enough for him.
In addition to school work, three of the girls, Kayla, Rebecca and Corinne, have been working on a combined valedictorian speech (along with three other classmates also named as valedictorians) for the past two months. While the exact theme is meant to be a secret until all the valedictorians can deliver the speech together, Kayla did reveal that it is meant to show how all of the individual valedictorians represent a little piece of what their school stands for.
Corinne expanded on the theme by saying, "Part of the implied theme is that, since it is the six of us sharing it, we are cooperating and we enjoy working together. We can all share our success together."
And while they will have to wait a little bit longer to come together to share that success, the twins expressed gratitude for the way the community at large has come together to try and make the end of their senior year feel special, despite the pandemic.
"It's been really powerful to see how many people have made an effort to do things to make us feel special," Rebecca said.
One thing is for sure, their unique perspectives on being cemented in history as the senior class that graduated amid a pandemic will give them lasting memories and proves they are optimists as they continue to look positively to the future.
"I think 10 years from now I will look back and be like, 'I had a great home, a great school, a great community around us.' So, it's like, too blessed to be stressed. I think we will look back on it as a positive and be like, it was a good time to get to know our family a little bit more and have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend three months with our family," Nate said.