A memory sticks out in John Ursin’s mind when it comes to his twin daughters, Anna and Gabrielle.
He recalls his daughters — both Pope John XXIII Regional High School graduates — running in a fun race during Byram Day, about to come in first and second. But rather than finishing in that order, the Ursin twins made sure they tied for first.
“I always remembered that,” John Ursin said. “They overcame their instinct to win to recognize the value of winning together.”
Togetherness is the Ursin twins’ foundation, leading them to accomplish feats such as earning co-valedictorian status at Pope John High School for the Class of 2021. The twins finished atop a class of 160 students.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without that,” Anna said. “It’s neat to have someone share so many unique experiences with you. She has all the same friends, same hobbies, and same school schedule. She shares a car, she shares the same clothes and shares every moment of the day with you. We constantly push each other to do well together. It’s amazing.”
“It’s so cool,” Gabrielle said. “We’ve done so many things together. I can talk to Anna about things that nobody else knows or understands. We hold each other to a high standard in everything we do and we just want what is best for us.”
Born six minutes apart from each other, with Anna being the oldest sister, Anna and Gabrielle have always been trying to make an impact together. They showed how dynamic they were during their time at Pope John.
In the classroom, they both finished with a 4.7 GPA while taking 11 advanced placement courses. They also scored over 1500 or over 35 on the SAT and ACT exams, respectively.
They also were co-founders and co-presidents for the French club and Light the Candle club, a service club that focused on making cards for children in orphanages. In addition, they were members of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, French Honor Society, and English Honor Society, recipients of the Pope John Service Award, and recipients of the Pope John Spirit Award.
Outside of the classroom, they were captains of the Pope John girls soccer team and the skiing team. They also played club soccer for World Class FC and volunteered for organizations such as Birth Haven, a shelter for homeless pregnant women.
“One of the most fulfilling things is to walk into a place or event together and people say, ‘Oh, it’s the (Ursin) twins,’” Gabrielle said. “It’s silly but it’s really special to do it together.”
While they have been working side-by-side in a lot of ways, Anna and Gabrielle have also stood out individually as well.
Anna has volunteered at Newton Medical Center, shadowed area doctors at Premier Health Associates, and has been working toward an Emergency Medical Responder certification. As for Gabrielle, she has been working as an intern for The Land Conservancy of New Jersey.
This combination of experiences showed why they were selected as co-valedictorians for Pope John.
“When they called out the salutatorian’s name and we realized it wasn’t one of us, we were like ‘Oh no! It’s only going to be one of us,” Anna said. “We just said at the time that we would be happy regardless if only one of us got it. But when we were selected, it was just amazing.
“It validated all of the hard work we put into school and everything else over the last four years. It made all that struggle and rigor really worth it.”
“It was definitely a nice sign of recognition,” Gabrielle said. “It was special to be chosen together.”
Even though they accomplished so much at Pope John, Anna and Gabrielle are getting ready for their next challenge: going to separate schools for the first time.
This fall, Anna will be attending Carleton College to continue her academic and soccer careers. As for Gabrielle, she will be attending Washington & Lee University, where she will also continue her academic and soccer careers.
Anna and Gabrielle understand that this fall will be their biggest test to date, but are confident they can get through it together — just like they always have.
“I think it is special that we grew up with a built-in best friend,” Gabrielle said. “We will always share that special bond.”
“It will make our special bond even stronger,” Anna said. “Regardless of the distance, we always have each other.”
“I think it is special that we grew up with a built-in best friend. We will always share that special bond.” Gabrielle Ursin
“It will make our special bond even stronger. Regardless of the distance, we always have each other.” Anna Ursin