K.C. twins achieve high school success

Monday, May 11, 2009
Ruskin High School seniors and identical twins Jonathan, left, and Donathon Morgan are seen April 30 in Kansas City, Mo. Recently they both won Gates Millennium Scholarships. The honors will provide them full rides for college, all the way through doctorate studies. (Garvey Scott ~ Kansas City Star)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Finally, a question stumped the top-of-the-class Morgan twins.

Jonathan DeBarge Morgan and Donathan LeBarge Morgan, co-valedictorians this year at Ruskin High School, turned to each other and tried to think of a way in which they were different.

Not much to work with.

The brothers are the same height and weight (5 feet 8, 124 pounds). Same haircut. Their dental X-rays are identical, a dentist told their mother. They like the same music, movies and TV. Both are ushers at church. They laugh at the same things and on this day are dressed alike in black shirts and white slacks.

Most of all, they both studied hard and stayed out of trouble at Ruskin in the Hickman Mills School District.

Finally, the twins smiled at the same time, of course. No, no big difference came to mind.

"When we go to Subway ..." Jonathan started.

"... we both get the spicy Italian," Donathan finished.

They also both get Gates Millennium Scholarships. The honors will provide them full rides for college, all the way through doctorate studies. The program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was started in 1999 to help outstanding minority students go to college when they otherwise might not have the resources to do so.

The brothers are headed to Iowa State University. Jonathan will study mechanical engineering; Donathan opted for electrical engineering.

Understandably, their mother is proud. Cathy Morgan's own dream of going to college was derailed years ago by lupus. She is now disabled.

"They build me up and make me feel strong," she said.

She knows people want to know what makes her sons different. Why do they work so hard and dream so big when other children just want to get by or give up?

"Sometimes I wonder if they look at their mama and want to do these things for me," she said.

The twins will be roommates at Iowa State. After graduation, they plan to start their own engineering firm.

Which takes us to Question 2: Don't they ever get tired of each other?

Again they looked to each other, but this answer came fast: No.

They are best friends and constant companions. They don't play sports. They don't have girlfriends. Each is the only match for the other's focus, drive and determination. Teachers described them as respectful, impeccably polite, school leaders and well-liked.

Cathy Morgan saw her sons' fascination with mechanics and electronics back in preschool Head Start. They were always taking things apart, trying to learn how they worked.

When they got to school, they competed for grades against each other. In high school, the video games and TV sat idle as they crammed for grades.

"They're always coming up after class and asking those extra questions," said teacher Leta Hogge, who has them this spring in advanced placement English literature. "Very self-motivated; they want all they can get."

She credits the parents, Cathy and Anthony Morgan, for fueling that drive.

The twins received important advice along the way. An older brother is a police officer. A sister works in corrections.

"They've both told the boys stories," their mother said. "And they know they didn't want to end up in those same stories."

It was another sister who encouraged the twins to apply for the Gates scholarships.

"She told us we should reach higher and really try to do something special," Donathan said.

"She wanted us to get out of our safety zone," Jonathan said.

Last week the twins along with fellow Ruskin senior Andrea Goering got word they were three of this year's 1,000 graduates from across the country to win Gates scholarships. More than 21,000 students applied.

Next up is Ruskin graduation May 18. The twins may be co-valedictorians, but Donathan points out that his 4.038 GPA topped his brother's.

Yes it did by a whopping .019.

See, they really are different.

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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