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    Twice as much leadership

    Twin sisters serve as co-presidents of the student council at Seminole High.

    By LORRI HELFAND

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Aimee and Abby Phillips clung to their mother as she led them to class their first day of school.

    photo
    [Times photo: Scott Keeler]
    Abby Phillips, 18, front, poses with her twin sister Aimee, 18, in the Seminole High School yearbook workroom, where they both work.
    Aimee wore a pink polka-dotted dress with matching socks and Abby wore the same ensemble in blue. The twins' mother saw the confused look on her daughters' faces as she dropped Abby off at her kindergarten class and hustled Aimee to the opposite end of Bauder Elementary for her class.

    "It was one of the hardest days of my life. As a parent you're wondering if you're doing the right thing," Laurie Grubbs said.

    But she and her then-husband, Tim Phillips, had joined a local support group for parents of twins and they heard the horror stories about children forced to be carbon copies of each other. They were told it was important to separate twins early on, so the girls could develop their own personalities.

    As the girls grew, there were signs that their choice made a difference.

    For example, when the family popped by McDonald's, "I always grabbed the Barbie doll and she would grab the trucks" with their Happy Meals, Aimee said.

    Twelve and a half years later, Phillips and Grubbs say they made the right choice.

    Although the 18-year-old twins go out of their way to spend time with each other, they have developed independent spirits. In their senior year at Seminole High, they've found a way to put their unique-but-complimentary personalities to use. Aimee and Abby have teamed up to head the student body as co-presidents of the student council.

    Both have been active in high school activities, yet neither had run for a student council office before. Aimee hadn't considered it, and Abby was still devasted by an election defeat in middle school.

    But when assistant principal Val Walker suggested they run together, they thought it was a great idea.

    "I was all for it," Aimee said. "I wanted to make my senior year memorable and help other people out."

    Then they almost lost the nerve.

    "At the last minute we were kind of going to back out, but Aimee put in our form and they said we could run," Abby said.

    The twins said they felt comfortable running as co-presidents because three years ago Seminole High had co-leaders as well. Administrators checked the by-laws and gave them the green light to run.

    When they were elected last spring, they felt honored because the entire school chooses student council officers, they said.

    And they were confident that their personalities were a perfect match for the job. Abby is outgoing and Aimee tends to be more practical. So, Abby leads most of the meetings, and Aimee makes most of the follow-up phone calls.

    "I told her, "I'll do most of the busy work if you talk,' " Aimee said.

    Junior class president Julia Stenzel, 16, said the bond between the twins also makes them a winning duo.

    "They work really well together because they already have such a close relationship," she said.

    So far the political relationship has worked out well, they said. Together they planned homecoming and several successful events, including a toy drive for children at a homeless shelter.

    According to Julia, Aimee is "a little conservative," and Abby is the "crazy one." And outside of student council, the girls find that those differences compliment each other as well.

    "I don't feel I'd be the same person without her always standing behind me, encouraging me. She pushes me to achieve my goals," Aimee said.

    And Abby credits Aimee with improving her grades and not letting her give up on difficult assignments.

    "She'll sit there and make me learn it whether I want to or not," Abby said.

    The twins share some of the same interests. Both are on the yearbook staff and involved in the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Lettermen's Club.

    But their independent streaks always seem to shine through on campus. Aimee is captain of the cheerleading squad and Abby recently received the Coaches' Award for her dedication to the softball team.

    In a few weeks, the student body will elect new officers. As their term as co-presidents comes to a close, they say the experience has taught them a lot.

    "It showed me that we've grown together over the years and just became a great team together," Aimee said.

    With graduation in mind, the twins have their eyes on different futures. Aimee plans to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer cheerleader before becoming a math teacher, and Abby plans to be an education administrator.

    But for the next few years the two won't be far apart. Both plan to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa.

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