A double dose of congratulations is in order for a set of identical twins who shared the honor of being crowned co-valedictorians of their high school in Illinois.
Like two peas in a pod, sisters Tia and Tyra Smith have done nearly everything together during their time at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.
Before parting ways on their road to college, however, the dynamic duo took the stage together one last time at graduation this past Saturday, where they delivered a joint address to their fellow students, family and friends.
“I was glad it was the both of us,” Tyra Smith, 18, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We really worked together in order to be where we were. It was the last thing we could do together in school before we have to leave each other.”
The sisters pulled off an impressive academic feat, both graduating with 4.0 GPAs and acing 12 Advanced Placement courses. Tia said she most enjoyed AP U.S. history and human geography, while Tyra’s favorite classes were problem–based-learning math and biotechnology.
When their heads weren’t in the books, the sisters spent their time with the school’s gallery club, collecting artwork from fellow students to showcase at different events. According to GMA, the twins are also credited with starting their school’s first-ever Black history art gallery, which they titled “More Than 28.”
Tia and Tyra also share a passion for theater, a love they said was sparked after seeing a school production of the 1971 hit musical “Grease,” according to The Chicago Sun Times. The pair went on to participate in the Gooodman Theater’s Bandle Young Critics program and the Steppenwolf Theatre’s Young Adult Council, which provided them hands-on training on everything from stage-writing to fundraising and event planning.
This was happening all while the sisters juggled full-course loads — of five college-level classes each. Still, Tia Smith said “Theater … has been the most rewarding and the most influential in shaping the person I am today.”
School counselor April Weathers said she feared their extracurriculars might be too much for the twins to handle. They happily proved her wrong.
“I was like, ‘No, I’m not approving this,’” Weathers told the newspaper. “‘That’s not a stress level I’m comfortable with.’ [But] what did they get? Straight A’s.”
According to the twins’ family, Tia and Tyra are no strangers to academic success. Mom Lemi-Ola Erinkitola, an educator and owner of a tutoring practice called The Critical Thinking Child, said both her daughters have worked hard for their achievements. And she couldn’t be more proud.
“Their achievement did not come as a surprise because we’ve been working with them at a very early age,” Erinkitola told “GMA.” “We made sure we built foundational skills in both reading and math.”
“Typically, what we’ve seen is one valedictorian,” she continued. “I was glad because they’re going to separate colleges and it put a nice finishing touch on their years together academically. It was very, very emotional and goes beyond just the title. It was the fact they can share that platform together and a memory they can carry throughout their journeys in life.”
This fall, Tia will head to Duke University, where she plans to study theater and statistics, while Tyra will attend Northwestern University to study theater and economics.
“I feel like we each made the best decision for ourselves,” Tia Smith told the Sun-Times earlier this year. Her sister agreed, but admitted spending more than one day apart might take some getting used to.
“I feel like we’re going to be fine,” Tyra chimed in. “We don’t know what it’s going to feel like yet.”
Watch more in the video below.