CAMDEN — Smith Easton has always been remarkably close to his twin sister, Paxton.
After all, Smith came into the world just three minutes before Paxton as their mother, Shannon Easton, gave birth to the twins.
More recently, Smith finished just fractions of a grade-point average ahead of his sister as he earned valedictorian honors as No. 1 in his class at Caesar Rodney High School’s commencement on Saturday.
Paxton didn’t exactly fare badly, either, as she was named the class salutatorian after finishing second in the Riders’ graduating class.
Michael Easton, the father of the twins, said it has been quite a ride for the Easton family since they found out their children would be graduating No. 1 and 2 in their class.
“It was quite emotional. We’ve been beaming since we found out,” Mr. Easton said. “We weren’t expecting our daughter to be number two because she had been tracking as number three, while our son had been tracking one for most of high school.
“So, it came as a shock, honestly, to have both of them be one and two. They were very quiet. In fact, I think my daughter was kind of resolved that she wasn’t going to be number two. They are definitely pretty low-key and mild-mannered.
“(Smith) gave her a shoutout during his (valedictorian) speech that he’s the alpha twin and she took it in stride.”
The odds had to be remarkably long for a set of twins to be able to pull off the one-two graduation punch.
Both students went to Holy Cross School in Dover until the ninth grade, when they transferred to Caesar Rodney. They credit both Holy Cross’ and CR’s teachers and students with helping them mold them into who they are today.
“Not going to CR for middle school, the jump to high school was kind of a big one for me, but I met a lot of friends along the way, and I feel like I’ve improved a lot as a person at Caesar Rodney — both mentally and physically, through cross country and through a lot more harder classes,” Smith said.
“I also met a lot of friends who helped me become a better person all-around.”
Paxton said she has had a similar experience as her brother in her four years at CR, but said much of the groundwork for her success was built at Holy Cross.
“Actually, I feel like I gained all of the experiences, especially starting at Holy Cross, which is a lot smaller, and then Caesar Rodney is a very big school,” she said. “I feel like it helped me gain a lot of experiences and helped me gain important skills for obviously the rest of my life.”
Paxton didn’t resent the fact that her brother finished just ahead of her — again — when it came to class ranking.
“I found out I was going to be the salutatorian about a week before,” said Paxton. “Our principal called our mom and my mom told us to come in the school together. So, when (our mom) said for us to come together, I kind of had a feeling. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but then she told us about a week before graduation.
“I was really excited. I think it’s really special and I feel like it brought us closer together.”
The Easton twins both love working with animals and are framing their futures around it.
Smith will be attending Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in the fall, where he will be majoring in zoo science, while Paxton will be moving to Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York, where she will major in marine sciences.
Smith said he and his sister’s high school careers mirrored many others who have had to endure strange learning experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was definitely a big change in trying to learn over Zoom,” he said, of the virtual classes. “It was very challenging, but I felt like once I got into the groove of things, it became less and less of a challenge toward the end of this year.
“But definitely at the end of last year and the start of this year, it was a lot more challenging than I had expected.”
Despite the learning obstacles, there were some classes that were better than others along the way.
“My favorite class was probably freshman-year biology,” said Smith. “I really liked it because the teacher who I had, used to work at a zoo. So we kind of had some similarities, and then I really liked my advanced literature teacher from last year, because I’m usually not a fan of literature classes but she was able to make it fun and the era of literature that we were at that year was very enjoyable.”
The Easton twins both admit to having a little bit of a rivalry, but hey, they’re also family.
“There’s a little bit of a rivalry but, yeah, we would still help each other when we needed help,” Smith said.
Paxton agreed, saying, “I feel like we support each other pretty good. Of course, when we do tests and stuff in the same classes, I’m like, ‘OK, who got the better score?’ But I feel we definitely support each other along the way.”
That support will probably grow even stronger as the close-knit brother and sister head in different directions this fall, but with the same lofty goals in their minds.