Identical twins Estrella and Perla Ortiz, 18, went through their senior year at Fort Worth’s North Side High School with an unusual fear — that one sister would achieve valedictorian or salutatorian status and the other would not.
“We were actually scared,” Perla said. “ ‘What if one of us doesn’t get in?’ ”
No worries, as it turned out. Estrella is valedictorian with a 4.4 grade-point average, and Perla, whose GPA is 4.3, is salutatorian.
“We are sometimes competitive, but just getting up there with you was my goal,” Estrella told Perla as the two showed up at North Side for one last time for a Star-Telegram interview and photo shoot last week.
They’ve written a single valedictory speech together and will take turns delivering it tag-team-style during graduation ceremonies at noon Sunday at TCU’s Schollmaier Arena.
The twins are the sixth and seventh daughters of Augustin and Ma.Yrma Ortiz of Fort Worth.
As recipients of TCU’s Community Scholars program, they will both be attending TCU with expenses paid. Both will be majoring in biology and pre-med for careers in health sciences. Estrella is interested in practicing gynecology, while Perla, in a rare departure from her twin, wants to be a pediatrician.
Their sister Maria Ortiz was North Side valedictorian in 2014. She is currently attending TCU and, like all but one of the Ortiz girls, is working on a health career. One sibling veered from the course and studied engineering.
The twins had more obstacles to overcome than many of their elementary school peers. They moved with their family from Mexico when they were Spanish-speaking third-graders. They attended school that year at Veda Knox Elementary School in Arlington, then entered the Fort Worth school district in fourth grade.
The sisters say it’s wrong to assume that academic success comes naturally to students who make good grades.
“No, we did a lot of studying, but it was really hard,” said Estrella. “We were having to learn how to study and work in a whole different language at the same time.”
The girls practiced their English on each other incessantly to improve their communication skills.
“Just because people see us at the top now doesn’t mean it was easy,” Perla said.
Their parents and sisters were supportive, the twins said, and college and career were top priorities early on.
“They would always motivate us,” Perla said. “They would always say, ‘You have to go to college and find something to do.’ ”
“We got that from our sisters, too,” Estrella said, “ ‘If you want to be a success, get an education.’ ”
The twins have been active in the National Honor Society and HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), in addition to volunteering as tutors at after-school programs. They help students with homework, especially math, and adults seeking GED certificates.
The petite sisters admit they can be picky eaters, and they aren’t athletic.
“We did golf our freshman and sophomore years,” said Estrella.
“But we weren’t very good at it,” Perla added.
They have the same friends mostly, and truly enjoy hanging out together. “It’s really fun to be with her,” Perla said of her sister.
In their spare time, Estrella and Perla enjoy the simple pleasures of playing board games, spending time with their large family, and especially listening to music.
“It’s a stress-reliever,” Perla said.
They also enjoy road trips to visit relatives in Florida and Mexico.
Despite their early fears, the Ortiz sisters’ lives will continue in tandem for the foreseeable future. They had other offers from major universities in Texas, but Estrella said they didn’t consider them once TCU came through.
“We wanted to stay together,” said Perla, “and be Horned Frogs.”