COOLIDGE — They didn’t copy each other’s homework, but they did copy each other’s genetics.

Twins Ethan and Evan Hodge, this year’s valedictorians for Coolidge High School, had the same grades, the same schedules and many of the same extracurricular roles. But they also had the same strong incentive for becoming top academic achievers: Their mother, Dawn Dee Hodge, was principal of the high school until 2018.

“We’ve always been around hardworking family members,” Ethan said. “There wasn’t an option not to give our best in academics, but we weren’t being forced to it. It was what we wanted.”

Their sister was also valedictorian in 2016, but the Hodge twins say that their mother’s influence is mostly in their personal lives, and in reality their schoolwork was their own achievement.

“We don’t have to tell them to study,” said Dawn Dee Hodge, who is currently the district’s director of human resources. “Maybe once in a while we might nudge them, but we are just super proud of them and excited to see what these next steps are.”

In fact, with them doing so much together their whole lives, it only made sense for them to be co-valedictorians.

“Throughout high school we pretty much always did the same thing,” Evan said. “It was exciting when it was announced we were both the valedictorians, but also pretty expected.”

Both twins cited math as their favorite subject and what they showed the most aptitude for, although they took plenty of Advanced Placement courses during their high school years and studied calculus at Central Arizona College their junior year.

Both received a Cesar Chavez Scholarship and were named Coolidge-Florence Elks Lodge Most Valuable Student. Ethan was an Arizona State National Recognition Finalist, while Evan received a University of Arizona Wildcat Distinction Award.

The twins both participated in marching band all four years of high school. In addition, they played football in middle school and their freshman year and were involved with SkillsUSA in their sophomore year. Evan plays French horn, mellophone, trumpet, bass and electric guitar, and piano, while Ethan plays saxophone and tenors for drumline.

“We tried a bunch of stuff, like student government and stage production,” Evan said. “We were both really into engineering. But I think we both found our passion with the marching band.”

Marching band was unfortunately one of the casualties of the pandemic school year. The Hodges were not shy about sharing their frustrations with online learning and missing friends, though they didn’t blame anyone for the situation.

“It’s great to see people again,” Ethan said. “The thing I enjoy most about school is seeing our friends. I love learning in a group setting, and there wasn’t that experience this year, but luckily we stayed motivated.”

Once school ends, the Hodge brothers will have to experience life separate from one another for the very first time, without those around them knowing they have a twin.

Evan will be studying music education at the University of Arizona, with the hopes of becoming a band director someday. Meanwhile, Ethan said he will attend ASU for engineering, although he plans to be in the school’s marching band.

“It is nerve wracking,” Evan said. “But so is any new thing. It’s nice to do something different, I guess. I have nothing but high hopes for the future.”

According to Dawn Dee Hodge, who will be taking over as district superintendent next month, high school already teased out some of their separate personalities.

Ethan said although they are both very self-motivated, he’s come to enjoy the spotlight a little more than his twin brother, who described himself as more laid back.

No matter where they go, both Hodges said they are proud to be Coolidge Bears.

“You really feel a sense of community pride here,” Ethan said. “We wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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