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At 17, Identical Twins Have High School and College Degrees

Submitted by on May 12, 2021 – 5:59 pm

Identical twins Violette and Sabine Smith are earning high school diplomas and college degrees at only 17.

The phrase “high-achieving students” seems inadequate to describe Sabine and Violette Smith of Groveland, 17-year-old identical twins who are not only graduating from Pentucket High School a year early but also with high honors from Northern Essex Community College with their associate degrees in liberal arts. They will graduate from Northern Essex on Saturday, May 15.

How is this possible? Through NECC’s dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to earn college credit and get an affordable head start on their college degree, thanks to tuition discounts.

“They wanted to just really gain a head start when it came to college and the plans that they had in the future,” says Josselyn Guzman, assistant director of NECC’s PK-12 Partnership and Early College program.

Sabine and Violette were looking for a new and different academic experience when they discovered the dual enrollment option at NECC.

“I think it was really interesting to try a new format,” says Violette. “The college format of the different courses was great, and I really liked all the different professors.”

In addition to stretching themselves academically, dual enrollment at NECC and taking college-level courses helped Sabine and Violette gain clarity about the careers they’d like to pursue. For instance, Sabine always thought that she might do something in the sciences but taking liberal arts classes at NECC helped her realize that she’s interested in writing, journalism, and history.

“After I took all these classes, I was much more interested in all the different writing and history classes,” she says.

After their graduations, Sabine and Violette are applying for four-year colleges for fall 2022. In the meantime, they’re taking a study abroad gap-year program in Greece that’s focused on art and writing.

“You get to get immersed in a different culture,” Violette says. “I think it’s good to be able to see things from like around the globe and be able to experience education in different places as well.”

“Students gain a sense of confidence and a sense of belonging very early on in their years as a high school student but they learn what that’s like on a college campus,” Guzman says. “That confidence skill has already been built and really helps them shine.”

Both Sabine and Violette agree.

“It like really helped prepare me, personally, for what to expect when I go to a four-year college or pursue other academic experiences,” Sabine says. “I think it also really helped me to be more independent and just really be prepared.”

Guzman says there are so many benefits to early college beyond affordability and a chance to earn college credits.

To learn more about Early College and Dual Enrollment opportunities at Northern Essex, contact

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.