Rommi is the creative one with a powerful curiosity. Zane is the “more serious” analytical one but is also “down-to-earth.” Adam is the “witty” one who everyone seems to know.
The 16-year-old Kashlan fraternal triplets are unique, of course, but they recently accomplished the same remarkable feat: finishing as co-valedictorians of West Forsyth High School’s Class of 2019.
All three finished with an identical 4.722 grade-point average.
“It just kind of worked itself out,” Zane said. “We just really maximized our rigor. … We took some AP courses, we took some honors courses, normal courses, and the number kind of worked itself out to be 4.722. And that was enough.”
For a while, the brothers’ lives were oriented by the family’s single minivan. Shuffling the three between their individual activities wasn’t practical, so they were forced to share interests, though they found room for compromise.
“Like Zane wants to go to swimming but I want to go to water polo,” Adam said. “OK, we can go swimming on Mondays and Wednesdays and then we can go to water polo on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
In sixth grade, the brothers each received their own laptop, and their individual interests started to blossom.
Rommi dove into engineering and the life sciences; he learned how to build a computer.
Zane became drawn toward anatomy, particularly how the brain worked.
Adam developed an entrepreneurial spirit and made money trading virtual goods in video games with friends at school.
The three might be sitting together on the couch with their laptops, but each one was in a different world.
“As if each one got in their own virtual minivan,” said the triplet’s father, Dean Kashlan.
Dean and their mother, Judy, got hints early on that the three were smart while attending a Montessori school for their elementary years. By middle school, it became clear after they took a series of placement tests. All three scored well enough to take high school-level courses at Hopewell Middle School, in Milton, so that by the end of middle school they had completed two years of high school.
After middle school, the family moved to Forsyth County, and the brothers continued to excel at West Forsyth. They took the same amount of Advanced Placement, honors and regular classes and often times took them together.
Sure, they were competitive, but in a supportive way, Adam said.
“It’s kind of a friendly competitiveness where we’re all working to do our best,” Adam said, “but at the same time we’re not willing to help give answers to each other.”
“We push each other,” Rommi added.
Becoming valedictorian was never a specific goal though, they said, and it was never a topic of interest for their parents either, Judy and Dean said. The brothers simply followed the advice of their counselor, Cassie Woodworth, they said, and tried to exhaust all the academic opportunities available to them at West.
But after report cards came out this past winter, the family couldn’t help but wonder about the possibilities. All three had the same grade-point average, which was ranked second in the Class of 2019 at the time.
“We thought, wait a minute, we had a shot,” Dean said.
The brothers continued on with their course work through the rest of the school year with no update on their class ranking until a special breakfast for seniors graduating with honors just days before graduation.
At the breakfast, school administrators gave instructions for the day of graduation. Some special academic honors were announced.
At the end, the school announced the Class of 2019 valedictorian.
Or valedictorians, that is.
“Three valedictorians is always a shock,” Rommi said. “You’re expecting to hear one name, and then all of a sudden three come out. It’s like confusion, and then people are happy.”
Judy heard before Dean; she was volunteering at the breakfast in the cafeteria. Some students found her and informed her of the announcement.
“First, I was in tears,” Judy said, “because they work hard, so they got rewarded.”
The brothers texted the news to their dad soon after the announcement, with a picture of their valedictorian medals.
After the initial rush of the moment wore off, the three realized that the accomplishment meant they now had to give a speech at graduation.
“None of us wanted to do it except for Adam,” Rommi said.
At graduation, the three were bombarded by friends’ families.
“They were coming up to us, asking us how we did it,” Zane said.
Their answer was simple.
“It just played itself out,” Rommi said.
Things won’t slow down for the brothers anytime soon.
Rommi works in the Serpooshan Lab, a combined lab between Georgia Tech’s engineering department and Emory University’s biology and medicine departments that solves cardiac problems using tissue engineering with 3D printers.
Zane works in the Prinz Lab at Emory, a computational neuroscience lab where he’s working on a model with mice that have mutated genes.
Adam works with the Zylka Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is experimenting with technology to help detect symptoms of chronic pain in humans.
In about a week, all three will participate in a summer program to help them transition to Georgia Tech in the fall. Rommi intends to study mechanical engineering. Zane plans to study neuroscience. Adam is still undecided but expects to pursue something in the STEM field.
It’s a big step for the 16-year-olds, but one they feel prepared for. Much of that credit, they said, goes to West Forsyth, particularly teachers Rebecca Britten, Lisa Brock, Jennifer Wallace and Michael Yeager and Woodworth, their counselor, and their parents, for helping them along their academic journeys so far.
“We definitely couldn’t have done it without them,” Adam said.