Identical twins to be recognized as co-valedictorians

At every high school graduation, one student is recognized as valedictorian. However, at one Little Rock school, there will be two (Photo: courtesy of the family)

At every high school graduation, one student is recognized as valedictorian. However, at one Little Rock school, there will be two valedictorians. That may not seem so unusual but these two are identical twins and their academic similarities are almost as identical as their appearances.

Even as toddlers it was destined Maya and Caroline Hatley would have a bright future.

Their mother Dr. Nayla Hatley explained, “I've thought about it a little bit and what I think happened here is certainly they were born with certain abilities, certainly they were and then they were provided environments at home and at school to you know grow that.”

Just how bright became evident to their parents, Drs. John and Nayla Hatley, when the girls reached high school at Pulaski Academy.

Maya said, “Growing up, I think it's been very fun but a little bit stressful just because the constant competition. You're always being compared to the other person.”

Maya and Caroline admit their interests, successes and personalities are very much the same.

Maya described Caroline, “She is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, one of the most creative for sure. She inspires me every day.”

Caroline described Maya, “She's funny and nice and empathetic and really, really, really smart.”

From sharing a spot on the homecoming court and winning a state tennis title together to earning the top rank in their graduating class, Pulaski Academy teacher Bill Toppich said, “Everyone aspires to be like the Hatleys.” Toppich, also their tennis coach, says the twins are unlike any students he's ever taught before. “Caroline, I would argue, is writing right now at a publishable level and her sister - more interested in the science track did, in my opinion, the best paper that we submitted for the Concord Review last year on the Japanese Internment Camps.

So nominating them for the prestigious Jefferson Scholarship at the University of Virginia was a no-brainer. Typically, each high school is only allowed one nominee but PA was allowed two when the counselor explained the twins were of equal merit.

Caroline explained, “We actually planned to only go to separate places. We had some overlap on our list but we said no, we will be going to different college unless we both win the Jefferson Scholarship…but it won't happen anyway so it's fine and then low and behold that's what happens.”

Nayla Hatley said, “It's really been incredible. I mean really this whole process. What we really wanted for them is to both feel validated and to both feel like they're getting what they want at the end of the process. We never thought it would be for them to get the Jefferson Scholarship at the University of Virginia. I mean it we just…it’s really incredible. It's been an incredible thing to watch. John Hatley added, “and it was gonna be pretty heartbreaking if one got it and one didn't.”

Out of nearly two thousand nominees, both Hatley girls were awarded scholarships worth more than $240,000 each.

Maya explained, “The fact that we've had all the same friends a lot of the time, the same family lifting us up and supporting us, the same teachers driving us to do better, I think that's what's made us into the people that we are and the fact that we've done so well just happens to be that we had the same experiences.”

That same experience continues Sunday when the girls share the spotlight yet again as twin co-valedictorians for the PA Class of 2017.

Caroline plans to study politics and law and Maya biology and pre-med. The girls say they will not be rooming together at college.

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