This year’s Liberty County valedictorians started their educations together in Sharon Long’s kindergarten class at Joseph Martin Elementary, and they remained close through Snelson-Golden Middle and even after separating for high school.
Now, Liberty County High School valedictorian Emily Carrier and Bradwell Institute valedictorian Chanelle Craig have found a new tie that binds: identical 97.181 grade-point averages. The 4.0 scale isn’t specific enough to distinguish between high achievers.
But ask either girl what her GPA is and the answer is the same: “Ninety-seven point something?” with a pause for recollection.
Though their friendship has been complicated by time spent at different high schools and the pursuit of academic excellence, Craig and Carrier answered in unison and finished each other’s sentences as they reflected on their friendship and academic pursuits.
“I just remember Chanelle being in my kindergarten class,” Carrier said with a laugh. “We just became instant friends; It was pretty much ‘Hey, I’m Emily,’ and you’re best friends — forever.”
“I think the one thing I remember more than anything else, … was — I don’t know if it really counts as a test because we were in kindergarten— but we would always take a test and then after each answer, we would look at each other and we would check our answers to make sure they were the same,” Craig said.
Long, now teaching kindergarten at Frank Long Elementary, taught both girls in kindergarten and first grade and said they have a special place in her heart.
She recalled the girls’ eagerness to read “The Magic Tree House” series during class and how they offered help to a classmate with special needs.
“I was so blessed to have those precious young ladies for two years,” she said. “Both of them had a strong desire to be successful in everything they tried even at that young age, and it has certainly followed them through their days of school.”
That dedication would influence their years in high school, too, as both girls kept a keen eye on their in-school GPA competition. But they were too busy trying to edge out their classmates to realize their own grades were neck-and-neck.
“I think between us, there really wasn’t any competition — I guess it kind-of was competition, without realizing it was … It was like ‘I want to do as well as her,’” Craig said.
Both said they never considered how the grades compared at their rival schools, and it was never a point of conversation between them.
When asked whether the tie is a coincidence, the girls answer in unison: “Most definitely” with some laughs.
“I just found out one day, and I was like, ‘That is so weird,’” Carrier said.
Her father, BI Principal Scott Carrier, told both girls they had the same GPA to the thousandth.
“I just thought it was really amazing. I was stunned by it,” Carrier said.
“It’s kind of like a start-together, finish-together type of thing,” Craig added.
So what drives the girls?
Carrier’s motivation is rooted in her family of educators and blossomed from her sense of accomplishment.
Craig’s initial motivation was her peers.
“Part of it initially, actually, was Emily,” Craig said.
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Carrier interjected.
“Sometime in sixth grade, I got a B,” Craig said. “I think it was like an 87 or something, and it didn’t bother me at first, but as the year kept going on, I realized, ‘You know, I had never gotten a B before,’ but then I noticed that Emily was able to — even though she still did things with everyone else, she still worked hard and still had As.”
“Oh gosh, I got a B in … math,” Carrier said. “It was an 89 — it was awful.”
Despite their common academics, the girls have different interests.
Craig, who has tried tap dance, jazz, ballet, gymnastics and horseback riding, will attend Duke University in North Carolina to study biology on a pre-medical track with a minor in Spanish.
Carrier, a bookworm who also loves to watch TV, will study illustration at Savannah College of Art and Design.
Both girls say they are nervous to venture far from home.
“I’ve been told not to expect to get all As a few times,” she said. “I was talking to this girl, and she told me that, ‘You know, if you really try and get all As, it’s probably bad for your health,’ … It unnerved me a little bit, but at the same time, I’m not exactly sure what she did during the school year.”
The prospect of not acing a class would be disappointing for Craig, whose last B was in a middle-school English class.
For Carrier, the academic pressure will give way to a creative one.
“I’m kind of afraid that I’m not going to be as good as everyone else at SCAD,” Carrier said. “There’s going to be all of these great artists, and I’m just going to be one of these faces in the crowd.”