Twice as nice: Danielle and Joe Franks, 16, will serve simultaneously as the student body presidents of their schools in the fall. Danielle attends St. Hubert. Joe is a student at Father Judge.
Danielle and Joe Franks may be fraternal twins, but their similarities only go so far.
Joe is five feet, 10 inches tall. Danielle is 5–2. When Joe gets ready for school each day, he wears Father Judge’s uniform: white Oxford shirt, gray slacks and blue tie with red stripes. Danielle dons a brown St. Hubert’s jumper and perhaps a matching sweater.
Among classmates, Danielle is well-known for her exploits on the softball field and basketball court. She’s one of her school’s top multi-sport athletes. Joe is a big extra-curricular contributor, too, although most of his activities occur in classrooms. He’s a member of the varsity mathletes, campus ministry team and yearbook staff.
Separate schools, different talents, unique interests. But the siblings from Mayfair will have something very new in common next fall. They will be (probably) the first brother and sister to serve simultaneously as the student body presidents of their schools.
Last month, underclassmen and underclass women at Judge and St. Hubert’s elected the 16-year-old twins as their next leaders. Both future presidents have already been contemplating their agendas.
“I really want to bring the classes together, bring the freshmen closer to the seniors, juniors and sophomores. I want us to do more things together,” Danielle Franks said during an interview with the Northeast Times. “We have a huge spirit day (every year), Susie Hubert Day, and spirit night. I want more girls to attend who are not on the council.”
“This year was our first annual Judge Thon, a dance marathon like they do at Penn State, for autism. I think if we start working on it early and with a lot of planning, we could really make it a lot bigger next year,” Joe Franks said.
The Franks parents, Patty and Larry, were thrilled, yet as surprised as anyone to learn the outcome of the student votes. They have always tried to be encouraging of the kids, while not overly demanding.
“When they first started school, we always told them just to do the best they can,” said Patty Franks, the youngest of four sisters who all graduated from St. Hubert’s. “And when they started high school, we told them, ‘Don’t just sit in a chair.’ We told them, ‘You won’t want to regret that you didn’t take advantage of what interests you, take advantage of the opportunities you will have.’ ”
Neither teen had verbally expressed a strong interest in going for class president, but the signs had long been there. As young students, the twins often spent their vacation days at St. Hubert’s, where their maternal grandmother has worked for the last 34 years. Now 83, she’s still the office manager there.
“When they had a day off or a half-day from St. Matt’s, Danielle and Joey would both go,” Patty Franks said. “They would go to the library or a study room and play like they were teachers. All the staff knew them and basically watched them grow up from when they were first-graders.”
While still in grade school at St. Matthew’s, the twins were never placed in the same homeroom until eighth grade. That year, they both ran to be the classroom’s student council representative and mission moderator. The latter role is a liaison between the school’s charitable programs and the homeroom. Danielle was chosen for student council and Joe for mission moderator.
One year later, they again went their separate ways, but both stayed involved in student government and extracurricular activities. In addition to softball and basketball, Danielle played two years of soccer and is a National Honor Society member. Joe is also on Judge’s bowling team and NHS. Outside of school, he is a soccer referee, presiding over games involving youths as old as 18.
Naturally, the Franks ended up taking very different paths on the campaign trail. As one might expect of any candidate, Danielle’s strategy involved a lot of smiling and sign-waving, some speech-making and plenty of politicking, while Joe mainly let others and his own reputation do the talking.
“We have a two-week period of campaigning,” Danielle said. “We made signs and buttons and about two days before the election we made speeches. (Students) all go down to the auditorium. I talked about what I wanted to do next year and gave some advice to the underclassmen, as well. I said, ‘Don’t take this too lightly. This is an opportunity to pick who you want to lead you.’ ”
At St. Hubert’s, candidates don’t run for one specific office. Rather, students select which candidate they think is best for each of four offices. There were 13 candidates in all. The student body elections are a celebrated annual event in the school, according to Robin Nolan, the vice president for institutional advancement.
“The posters were all over the walls. It was very vibrant. They were very creative and add a lot of life to the school,” she said. “It’s nice to see the girls walking around wearing all of their buttons.”
At both St. Hubert’s and Judge, students must be sitting members of student council and must be approved by the administration to be eligible for elections. Those hurdles were no problem for the Franks, who each are “A” students, their parents said. At Judge, candidates must also be approved by a special student government committee, which is tasked with reducing the hopefuls to two finalists.
The campaigning isn’t so elaborate, however.
“Our election was the first Tuesday in May. … I started campaigning that day and only during my lunch period. I went around saying, ‘Joe Franks for president.’ That’s what I did at lunch,” Joe said. “But in my classes, the teachers, they made sure it didn’t go unnoticed who was running.”
He also wrote a two-page essay about his intentions. In the end, he won his race by a little over 25 votes. “So it was a really small margin,” he said.
Danielle never received a ballot tally, but the final count doesn’t really matter. The school is unified behind her now.
“It’s an absolute honor. I’m ecstatic obviously,” Larry Franks said of both children. “In the back of their minds, I’m sure they both know it could help them (personally), but mainly it’s just a great honor to represent their school and do good work in the community.”
Ironically, neither teen plans to pursue elected office as a career. Joe wants to study math in college, while Danielle is leaning toward nursing or studying to become a physician’s assistant. Asked for her thoughts on modern politicians, Danielle was non-committal.
“I really have no opinion on them,” she grinned.
How politically correct. ••
A perfect pair: Future class presidents Danielle and Joe Franks are very involved at St. Hubert and Father Judge high schools. Danielle competes for the Bambies in softball and basketball, while Joe is a member of the varsity mathletes, campus ministry team and yearbook staff at Father Judge. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS