Drew and Bailey Blanton became valedictorian/salutatorian at their school
Growing up, the competitive nature between fraternal twins Drew and Bailey Blanton, motivated them to excel in school.
However, the brother and sister’s teamwork in recent years has paid off as they’ve earned the valedictorian and salutatorian positions for their 2022 graduating class at Plant City High School.
Drew was named the valedictorian – the highest-ranking student to achieve academic success, while Bailey was named salutatorian- the second highest ranking student.
It was surprising news to receive as they were already reaching the milestone to transition from high school to college.
“It was really, really exciting,” Drew said. “All the hard work paid off. All the dual enrollment classes, honors classes we took. We got what we all wanted to achieve basically.”
It was years in the making. Throughout childhood, they challenged themselves to outdo the other, to become the best in school and activities.
The siblings attended Tomlin Middle School and took part in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program.
As the name implies, STEM offers classes on these particular topics that are emphasized and teaches how they can be applicable to the world around us.
They were also earning high school credits while in middle school and in seventh-grade, became involved in the FFA, which engages students in the world of cultivation and livestock.
And they’ve made straight A’s since third grade.
“We really did have a competition in middle school,” Bailey said. “Neither one of us wanted to be the worse twin, but when we got to high school, it wasn’t really so much a competition anymore. We mostly helped each other out in classes.”
Bailey said her favorite subject is math and is about to wrap up AP Calculus, while Drew said he has developed a love for history and social studies.
He is still involved in the FFA program, currently serving as the president for the Plant City FFA chapter and the Hillsborough County FFA Federation.
Bailey is the captain of her school’s volleyball team, president of the National Honors Society (NHS), vice president of the FFA program, and vice president of the senior council.
She joked that she’s the vice president of everything that Drew is president of.
A student has to adopt the mindset to balance schoolwork with other activities, Drew said.
“Since we had a lot of the same interests, we had a lot of the same classes, so helping each other was a really strong factor in getting through four years of high school, and being able to be val and sal, because if I didn’t have Bailey helping me when I was struggling or I didn’t have enough time, I wouldn’t have gotten through it.”
Not only will they be graduating from Plant City High School, but they will receive an A.A. degree from Hillsborough Community College as they’ve been accruing credits from the institution.
The siblings’ achievements have brought acclaim from their teachers as well as their parents.
“You can imagine, your heart is just about to burst with pride,” said their mother, Melody. “Not only are they great academically, they’re just great kids. They’re good friends. They’re good teammates. They’re good students. I think when they were younger, they just always wanted to excel. I think they enjoyed success.”
They’ve already made plans to attend the University of Florida this fall.
Bailey is pursuing a degree in business finance, and Drew is going for a degree in agriculture communications, with plans to attend UF’s law school to become an agriculture lawyer.
“I’m really involved in agriculture,” he said. “That’s where my passion lies. Just living in FFA and agriculture and seeing what agriculturists do for our community. Throughout my career and life, I want to be able to help out as much as I can and be a part of that mission in order to feed the world.”
He has already applied for a livestock scholarship.
Like many other students who sell their livestock, Drew is afforded the opportunity to go to college with those funds.
Bailey also kept busy at the event.
In January, she was named as a court member at the 2022 Florida Strawberry Queens Pageant.
Since then, she has been attending a number of events around town with her fellow court members, Chloe Hopper and Tamia Williams, as well as First Maid Madison Davis and Strawberry Queen Kenley Connell.
During the 11-day festival, the five ladies were present at various competitions, shows, and concerts.
Becoming a local celebrity was the beginning of a prosperous year for Bailey.
“I really do miss festival time,” she said. “That was probably the best time so far in my life. I know I still have a lot of life to live, but the festival was amazing. I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience. Being salutatorian was just icing on the cake.”
Drew and Bailey have a 12-year-old brother. They encourage him to keep up his grades, but don’t pressure him to take on extra-curricular activities if he doesn’t want to, Drew said.
Although, he participated in his first FFA competition this year and is building up his public speaking skills.
Melody too, has learned some important values from Drew and Bailey.
“They really taught me that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything you want to do,” she said. “One thing I’m proud of with them, is their extra-curricular involvement. So not only are they involved academically and excel academically, but they’re involved in several clubs at school. They really try to have a full experience in high school, and I think it just showed that you can do it all and be successful and have fun.”
While they procrastinate, they manage to get back on track and focus on what needs to be done, Bailey said.
She enjoys spending time in downtown Plant City, checking out the shops, and Drew plays sports at Mike E. Sansone Park.
Although both will be away from their hang-out spots once they move to Gainesville for college, Plant City will always be home, the twins said.
While waiting for what the future has in store, Drew and Bailey are ready to take on challenges as they have before, not as competitors, but as a team.