Accomplished twins separate for college

Best friends-- Seniors Pei Chao (left) and Pei Yi (right) Zhuo celebrate their achievements on Derby Day at the high school on
May 23. The two will be separating for the first time since they were born when they go to Harvard University and Duke University,

Elise Dudley

Best friends– Seniors Pei Chao (left) and Pei Yi (right) Zhuo celebrate their achievements on Derby Day at the high school on May 23. The two will be separating for the first time since they were born when they go to Harvard University and Duke University, respectively.

Ricky Podgorski, News Editor

Known around school for their academic and film skills, Pei Chao (PC) and Pei Yi (PY) Zhuo will be separating for the first time in eighteen years when they graduate and go on to study at Harvard University and Duke University respectively. The duo has had an impact on the school through their academics and service to the community.

Born in China, the Zhuos came to the United States at the age of six to New York before moving to Torrington, Connecticut and then finally residing in Farmington. PC Zhuo believes that this experience transformed them as people.

“Immigrating to the United States has been an incredibly transformative experience in my life because I had to learn a new culture and language. These moves exposed me to new people and different experiences,” PC Zhuo said.

As children, the two describe themselves as “playful and energetic” with a wide array of interests from television and movies to drawing and WWE wrestling. Like in wrestling, the twins describe themselves as a “tag team” and think their “unique partnership elevates each of [them] beyond [their] limits as individuals.”

Advanced Placement (AP) European History teacher Jen Wood has both brothers in the same class period and fondly recalls how they often refer to each other as “brother” as opposed their actual names, confirming her belief that the two are incredibly close.

“This year, up close, I realized that their tremendous achievements are in part the result of the culture of intellectual scholarship they have created between themselves, and that they cultivate in each other. Their relationship as brothers, as twins, has allowed them to support each other, as they have navigated the challenges of life at FHS. It has also allowed them to push and challenge each other, and to each be better off for it. They are not only two of the most intellectually sophisticated and gifted students I have taught over the past 20 years here in Farmington, but they are two of the most ethical and morally upstanding as well. Pei Yi and Pei Chao, I think, answer to each other as well as to themselves, and that accountability has resulted in two young men of exceptional character,” Wood said.

Part of this closeness has developed from their parents having strongly encouraged the two to participate in similar activities as children. After similarly agreeing that baseball was “not for [them],” the two have dedicated themselves to academia and have studied in some of the high school’s most challenging courses. Recently, PC Zhuo was named Valedictorian and will be speaking at the graduation ceremony on June 12.

AP Macroeconomics and Microeconomics teacher Joel Nick got to work with PC and PY Zhuo on the economics team, an experience they are grateful for, noting winning first place at the Harvard Pre-Collegiate Economics Challenge as a highlight of their high school careers.

This year, they both served as Nick’s teaching assistants (TA) in his classes, an experience that both brothers say they were appreciative for.

According to Nick, both were effective in the classroom working with students in small groups and individually. Nick describes his experience with the brothers as a “distinct privilege” and is grateful for their help and “high-quality” suggestions to improve the experiences for students in the courses.

“What strikes me about both of these young men is their curiosity and selflessness. They enjoy learning everything they can and see, sometimes, difficult problems as opportunities for intellectual growth. Their selflessness is shown in, paradoxically, their competitive nature,” Nick said.

Aside from their academic work, the twins have been dedicated members to several clubs around school including student council, History Day, the school newspaper, economics team, Political Action Club, National Honor Society, amongst other clubs and honors societies. Their History Day project their sophomore year sparked an interest in filmography. Now, the brothers have produced several videos including two of the annual retirement videos, course spotlights on American Studies and Game Design, instructional rounds, amongst others.

“One of my favorite learning experiences has been researching the Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit. My brother and I had the opportunity to interview people who were involved in or were affected by the case. These interviews were fascinating and informative. In order to produce the History Day documentary on the lawsuit during my sophomore year, I had to learn how to film interviews and edit video on Premiere Pro,” PC Zhuo said.

This project required them to capture the stories of several participants in the lawsuit. Their work resulted in them being awarded Outstanding Entry in Connecticut Law at the History Day State Contest. A lawyer who litigated the original lawsuit personally presented the $500 check, the prize for the aforementioned award, to the brothers in the school library.

The duo decided to continue both their documentary careers through Journalism Honors and Capstone Journalism, where they both recently completed a capstone focused on developing the newspaper’s media presence and continuing their work on their documentary. As top editors in the Journalism course, PY Zhuo as one of the Editors-in-Chief and PC Zhuo as Media and Photography Editor, they worked this year on developing the paper’s online presence through social media and other multimedia. Journalism teacher MJ Martinez has noted that the two have left a lasting impact on the publication.

“It’s hard to say how much Pei Yi and Pei Chao have done for The Voice and how much they have grown. Through their dedicated leadership, the newspaper is now more diverse and more inclusive of our student population. Our writing has improved; our broadcast spots are more engaging and thoughtfully constructed, and their level of critical thinking helped us all in being more thoughtful, responsible journalists. I will miss them next year and am grateful for the legacy they are leaving behind,” Martinez said.

PY Zhuo, who won the Excellence in Journalism award this year, believes that his work with The Voice and the 9:05 News has been one of the most significant learning experiences for him.

“My favorite learning experience has been my time as Broadcast Coordinator of the 9:05 News. It was a huge responsibility that I didn’t quite fit into at the very beginning. However, I am glad that I was able to grow into the role. The process of overcoming the initial challenge was probably the most fulfilling experience of my time at the high school,” PY Zhuo said.

And it is through the journalism course that the two have met some of their closest friends, a class that PC Zhuo describe as a “community of extremely supportive and kind people.” Senior Elise Dudley, who, in friendship, has been given the name “Pei Lise,” says she has appreciated her time getting to know the two through the newspaper.

“The Pei Brothas are the coolest. I am really glad I have gotten the opportunity to get to know them through our mutual classes. I have never met people who are so simultaneously kind, intelligent, and caring,” Dudley said.

Next year, the two will be separating as they attend their respective universities. Both plan on studying economics and keeping in touch electronically.

“Although the prospect of parting with my brother will offer challenges, I am looking forward to this next chapter of my life. It will hopefully be a healthy experience that contributes to our development as individuals. I think we will start to develop our own niches at our respective colleges. Of course, we will continue to remain in touch and may even cooperate on certain projects,” PY Zhuo said.

Both Zhuo brothers will be attending their colleges with finances covered. PY Zhuo was named a David M. Rubenstein Scholar at Duke, and PC Zhuo received the Harvard Faculty Scholarship through the financial aid program.