Identical Twin Sisters Graduate From Chicago High School as Co-Valedictorians

Two identical twin sisters shared the spotlight during graduation at their Chicago high school as co-valedictorians.

Tia and Tyra Smith graduated from Lindblom Math and Science Academy in West Englewood, Illinois on Saturday, with each maintaining a 4.0 GPA and taking 12 Advanced Placement (AP) courses, according to Good Morning America (GMA). "I was glad it was both of us," Tyra Smith told GMA. "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."

During their high school career, the two 18-year-olds were involved in a gallery club, where they collected art from other students so they can be displayed at events. They also started “More Than 28,” the high school’s first Black history art gallery. In addition to getting straight A’s, the two sisters also developed a love for theater. While juggling AP courses, the two participated in the Steppenwolf Theatre’s Young Adult Council and the Goodman Theatre’s Bandle Young Critics programs, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The two programs give students in Chicago a taste of what goes on behind the scenes in theater production, from fundraising to screenwriting, according to the publication.

As they continued to pursue their passion for theater and screenwriting, the twins wrote a spec episode of the hit TV show “Black-ish” in collaboration with the health care company Baxter International to create awareness in their community for kidney disease, according to GMA. The two presented their episode at Illinois’ STEM Challenge Showcase, GMA reported.

During graduation, they told the Chicago Sun-Times they decided to do their valedictorian speech together, joking that graduation ceremonies are already lengthy.

“I think we’re successful because of ourselves and because we’ve worked together throughout all these years,” Tia told the publication. “I think it makes sense to do this together.”

The twins’ mother, Lemi-Ola Erinkitola, told GMA that watching them deliver the speech was a "proud" moment, but did not come as a surprise. "Typically what we've seen is one valedictorian," she told GMA. "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."

Karen Fitzpatrick Carpenter, Lindblom’s assistant principal, told GMA the Smith sisters have been dedicated to doing well in their academics since they set foot inside the school. "They have been dedicated since they entered the doors to our academic program," Carpenter told GMA. "We only have all honors and AP classes, so for them to go this [far] is extraordinary."

The two sisters are both headed to top schools come the fall. Tyra plans on studying economics at Northwestern University, and Tia will head to Duke University to study statistics, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Both of them have full-ride scholarships to the universities, and the two also plan to double major in theater.

In May, a senior from a high school in Houston, Texas made history when he became the first Black valedictorian in his school’s history. Kellin McGowan ended his high school career at St. Thomas High School with a 4.57 GPA.

St. Thomas High School is a 119-year-old Roman Catholic college preparatory school for young men, and the first Black student enrolled at the school in the 1940s, according to FOX 26 Houston. McGowan said he was shocked to learn that he was the first Black valedictorian in the school’s history. “It’s crazy to think about how after 119 years, I’m the first African American valedictorian,” he told the news station. “It’s surprising but I’m glad these barriers are being broken.”

During his high school career, McGowan was part of the St.Thomas Club, a group of students who maintained a 4.0 GPA for seven consecutive semesters. The teen was also the secretary of the National Honor Society.

“People have these misguided notions of what it means to be African American. I believe by seeing an African American do well in an institution like this, that they can see there is more to us than what they think,” McGowan said in a previous interview with KHOU.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.