‘It’s such a great honor to get this sort of academic recognition, so I’m really proud of us,’ said Sandhya, 18
Twin sisters Surabhi and Sandhya Kumar share the same birthday and the same parents. They took the same classes in high school and even have some of the same friends.
They also share the title of valedictorian for Chiles High School’s graduating class of 2022. That’s the student having the highest academic rank.
“It’s such a great honor to get this sort of academic recognition, so I’m really proud of us,” said Sandhya, 18.
This is a first in Chiles High School history, principal Joe Burgess said.
“It speaks volumes to these young ladies, who I have known since middle school,” he said. “I am grateful just witnessing their accomplishments. I am very proud of them.”
The twins said they’ve wanted to be first in their class since middle school, when they saw their brother graduate from Chiles as salutatorian, the student with the second highest academic rank in a graduating class. He did everything first, so they knew what not to do, they said laughing.
“He is someone you can always turn to for advice,” said Surabhi, also 18.
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The twins took over 20 Advanced Placement classes at Chiles and began to dual enroll at Florida State University their junior year when they ran out of options.
At FSU, they took classes in genetics, astronomy and ecology.
“You want experiences that narrow in on what you like and what your passions are,” Surabhi said.
The twins were both interested in STEM subjects, so they explored their academic passions together, with a little bit of competition added in. Their sisterhood was like a built-in support system, they said.
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“If there’s something that one of us didn’t understand, the other was there to help,” Sandhya said. “Anytime we did compete, it was to improve our test scores, so it sort of helped both of us.”
Their hard work and willingness to support each other also inspires their parents.
Amrita Kumar, the twins’ mother, said she’s thankful for the education her children received at Hawks Rise Elementary School, Deerlake Middle School and Chiles. She said her children wouldn’t have been able to succeed without the help of their teachers.
“They really nurture,” she said.
Sandhya and Surabhi have their own personalities, likes and dislikes. Still, when it comes to the main things in life, they stick together.
Surabhi is headed to Yale University to study cell and molecular biology to one day become a physician, she said.
Sandhya is going to Harvard University. While she will also be studying cell and molecular biology, she wants to be a physician-scientist.
They might be following their brother, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and goes to medical school at Temple University, both in Philadelphia, but they took their own path.
They made room in their schedules to take classes about history and art. They love to paint and take breaks in their busy lives to go on hikes.
“Don’t say no to opportunities,” Sandhya said. “You’re a part of history yourself. Since we’re both very STEM focused, having that one-track mind won’t help you in your life. You need a broadened perspective.”
A little bit more about Surabhi
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite movie: “Pride and Prejudice” or “Now You See Me”
Favorite book: “One of Us is Lying” by Karen M. McManus
Favorite high school class: AP Biology
Favorite Tallahassee Restaurant: Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
The last song you listened to: “As it was” by Harry Styles
Favorite pair of shoes: White Nike Air Force 1s (“They go with every outfit,” she said.)
Name an item on your life’s bucket list: Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
A little bit more about Sandhya
Favorite color: Yellow
Favorite movie: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
Favorite book: “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Harriot
Favorite high school class: AP Art History
Favorite Tallahassee Restaurant: The Thai Place
The last song you listened to: “Pompeii” by Bastille
Favorite pair of shoes: Vans (“I love my yellow pair”)
Name an item on your life’s bucket list: Seeing the Northern Lights
Contact Ana Goñi-Lessan at AGoniLessan@tallahassee.com and follow her on Twitter @goni_lessan.
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