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Twins graduate at the top of their classes

[Editor's Note: This article appeared in June 2016 on Written by Kevin Birnbaum. Reprinted here with permission. ]

SEATTLE – In some ways, Sophia and Theodore Looney are very different. Sophia is intense, effusive, decisive and admittedly a little “rigid.” Theodore is more laid-back, soft-spoken, slow to commit, go-with-the-flow.

In other ways, it’s obvious they’re twins. They share a ready smile and a deep devotion to Disney movies (especially “Beauty and the Beast”), soccer (Sophia is a midfielder, Theodore a goalie) and their Greek Orthodox faith (they attend St. Demetrios Church in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood and do competitive Greek dancing).

They’ve also just wrapped up similarly stellar careers at Seattle’s two single-sex Catholic high schools: Theodore graduated as the valedictorian at O’Dea, and Sophia was a salutatorian at Holy Names Academy. Both had unweighted GPAs of 4.0.

High school was the Seattle twins’ first time apart, after attending Villa Academy from third through eighth grade. “So that was a change, but I thought it was good for us to grow,” Sophia said.

It was a tough transition, Theodore said — “we’re super-close” — but they both ended up loving their high schools, especially the fellowship among students and with teachers.

Brotherhood is a “buzzword” at O’Dea, Theodore said, but it’s real; Holy Names fosters a sense of sisterhood like no other school, Sophia said. And more than just great instructors, their teachers became true mentors, even friends, they said.

So what was the key to their academic success?

“We’re so busy that it keeps us focused,” Theodore said. With all their extracurricular activities, they’d leave for school at 6:30 a.m. and get home at 8 p.m. or later. They had to squeeze in homework and studying at any free moment — during lunch, in the car, before games.

“We take our studies really seriously,” Sophia said, but their approaches differ.

Sophia doesn’t understand how Theodore can study to any soundtrack; she has specific Pandora radio stations for each subject: Maroon 5 for English, Bon Iver for physics, James Bay for calculus and history, Jacob Whitesides for art and contemporary problems.

Theodore didn’t study on Friday nights; Sophia would do homework then, but never on Sundays. “I won’t do anything recreational unless I have all my homework done,” she said.

At school, both were involved with campus ministry and enjoyed the experience of being Greek Orthodox in Catholic environments. “I really liked the opportunities … to live out my faith as well as learning about the Catholic faith,” Sophia said.

“It’s been really cool,” Theodore said. “I think I’ve definitely grown deeper in my own faith because of Catholic school.”

During Catholic Schools Week this year, the twins organized a “friendly battle” between O’Dea and Holy Names: dueling toilet paper drives for Jubilee Women’s Center, a transitional housing program. O’Dea collected 2,000 rolls to Holy Names’ 500. “We spanked you guys,” Theodore said.

At graduation time, both twins were selected to give commencement speeches. Theodore stayed cool, but Sophia got emotional. “I started crying,” she said.

“You did not cry, you bawled,” Theodore corrected.

“I just lost it,” she said, “because I’m just so emotionally attached.”

Still, she’s excited to move on. Both twins are heading to California for college — Sophia to Cal Poly to study structural engineering, Theodore to Santa Clara to study public health.

“So we’ll be three hours’ drive away from each other,” Sophia said.

“That’s the closest we can possibly get,” Theodore said — then they finished the thought together: “without us going to the same school.”


Twins Sophia and Theodore Looney just wrapped up similarly stellar careers at Seattle’s Holy Names Academy and O’Dea High School. Photo: Courtesy Looney family