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Identical twins are the valedictorian, salutatorian for Greenport High School

05/23/2019 6:00 AM |

They’ve shared everything: hobbies, interest, friends, grades and genes.

Next month, they’ll share the graduation stage.

Identical twins Jacob and Xavier Kahn have been named Greenport High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian. The duo will toss their caps in the air with the Class of 2019 on Sunday, June 23.

Jacob snagged the valedictorian spot with an unweighted GPA of 98.793. Xavier, who achieved a near-perfect score on his SAT, topping his brother’s, has an unweighted GPA of 98.576.

The straight-A siblings said they’ve always been competitive; both admitted to using the other as motivation to improve academically and socially.

The boys said their rivalry began at age 5. Xavier remembers standing in the driveway of their East Marion home after school, wielding a stick, preparing to fight his brother.

Their mother, Deborah Kusa, said that rivalry actually started much earlier — when they were born almost two months prematurely, which forced them to “fight early just to grow.”

“I think that might have something to do with being competitive,” she said. “It’s just their natural will to live and survive.”

Xavier and Jacob are not the first of their kind. In 2017, CBS New York reported that Locust Valley High School seniors Nicholas and Matt Rizzo graduated with the two highest grade-point averages in their class. According to that report, they were the first pair of identical twins to be valedictorian and salutatorian on Long Island.

But they are making history at Greenport High School, principal Gary Kalish said, where they are the first graduating twins to reach the highest possible academic ranks. 

“Jacob and Xavier Kahn excelled in academics, athletics, theater and club activities,” Mr. Kalish wrote Tuesday. “They are fine, hardworking young men who have taken advantage of all that Greenport has to offer and have made us all proud.”

Superintendent David Gamberg expressed a similar sentiment. “They are outstanding students who have been very involved in campus life, whether athletics or the theater program,” he said. “Their hard work and dedication will continue to serve them well beyond Greenport High School.”

Despite Xavier’s bleached hair, the pair appear identical. But emotionally, Ms. Kusa said, they couldn’t be more different. 

Xavier is quick-witted, shy and extremely competitive, she said. Emotionally intelligent and giving, Jacob is invested in the concept of “Service Above Self” — the motto of the Rotary Youth Leadership Association.

As sophomores, Jacob and Xavier, now 17, took interest in RYLA, which is associated with Rotary International, after a close friend introduced them to the program. Earlier this year, Jacob was nominated by local Rotary clubs as a RYLA leader.

Being selected as valedictorian and salutatorian in Greenport didn’t come as a surprise to their mother, but she said she gives credit to the competitive nature of the Class of 2019. Seeing each other on a regular basis pushed them further, she said. 

“They see each other every day, they’re not just competing, their copying,” she said.

The brothers participate in similar extracurricular activities, too, including the Interact, Senior Class and DECA clubs. They’re both members of the National Honor Society and Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and play as partners in tennis. They were the Suffolk County Division IV doubles champions this season for the Southold/Greenport team.

Jacob Kahn pictured in 2018. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Jacob served as student council president and senior class treasurer. He has worked at Orient by the Sea Restaurant and Marina, American Beech and Island’s End Golf Course.

Xavier, class president and DECA club president, has worked at PORT Waterfront Bar and Grill. He’s also president of the school Drama Club, and a member for four years. 

In the past, Ms. Kusa said, she struggled to keep track of her sons’ extracurriculars, but there’s an advantage: 

“Because they have always been involved in the same extracurricular activities, I consider myself lucky compared to two different-aged kids doing two different things,” she said.

It was most difficult to keep track of their whereabouts when they were involved in a travel league, she said. 

Last fall, the pair played soccer for the high school. With Jacob as captain and center midfielder and Xavier covering center-back, the team compiled one of its greatest seasons ever, winning the Class D county championship and advancing to the first regional final since 2005.

The twins have never been apart for more than 10 days, but come fall, they will go their separate ways. Jacob plans to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and Xavier will attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Both will study engineering. Jacob intends to become a pilot.

Ms. Kusa pointed out that some studies have shown that twins experience the same emotions even while separated. She said she’s interested to see if they will maintain that emotional connection.

“I wonder how that innate communication will exist between them,” she said. “It’s going to be one of the most interesting things, as a mother, if they’re feeling each other’s presence, in a sense.”

Their competitive nature, Ms. Kusa added, is embedded in them. 

“I think they’re just naturally highly motivated. I think they might be that way even if they didn’t have a twin,” Ms. Kusa said. “But, we’ll never know.”

Top photo caption: Greenport High School salutatorian Xavier (left) and valedictorian Jacob Kahn will graduate June 23 at the top of their class. They’re the first pair of twins in Greenport history to hold the top two spots. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

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