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Godby High twins Llayna and Saniah lead the graduating class of 2024

Llayna and Saniah Maul, 17, are identical twins, but beneath the surface they are completely different.

Saniah is attracted to pink and bright colors. Llayna loves darker shades like black.

Llayna enjoys writing creative gothic horror stories. Saniah has a passion for fashion.

Their personalities are different, but they both share a love of learning.

On May 22, the twins will graduate from Amos P. Godby High School, with Llayna as valedictorian, the highest-ranking student in a class, and Saniah as salutatorian, the second highest-ranking student.

“We are very intrinsically motivated,” Saniah said. “Many people think that the work I do is for grades or awards, but that's not true. My passion for learning drives me, I just want to do my best.”

“I don’t work for the grades, they just come by themselves.”

After starting high school through Florida Virtual School in 2020, the twins transferred to Godby High in 2022 and began taking dual enrollment courses at Tallahassee Community College.

At Godby, they excelled in their academic classes, joined extracurricular activities such as the drama club, and were inducted into the National Honor Society.

Their most recent success together was their performance at the Florida Thespian Festival in Tampa with Godby's theater troupe in the school's one-act show “Rumpelstiltskin,” which won several awards.

“They are great individuals and creative. They are both very different despite being twins and they are very hardworking. I will miss them both very much,” said Randi Lundgren, Godby’s theater teacher.

Their parents, James and Annie Leonard, said they began educating their girls early, often playing music and reading to them while they were still in their cribs.

“This is no surprise, as the importance of family and education has always been a priority in our house. I believe the foundation of a good education is an early start,” Annie Leonard said as her husband sat next to her.

“They really like to be challenged, in a good way of course, and I like that. They don’t settle,” said James Leonard, a grocery worker. “They try to learn as much as they can.”

The parents, who also have two adult sons, see their daughters as inspiration. That's why Annie, a homemaker who also graduated from Godby High, chose a career in teaching. She is taking online courses through Western Governor's University.

“The way they learn inspired me to become a teacher because I feel like the things I did with them when they were younger somehow sparked their love of learning, and I just want to pass this on to more kids,” she said.

The twins thanked their parents for instilling in them the understanding that a free public education is a privilege.

“People really spend their entire lives working for things that we can learn for free, especially people in our demographic who were once denied access to education. So why not take advantage of it,” said Llayna.

The twins are both nominated for Leon County's best and brightest Class of 2024, with Saniah nominated in the arts category and Llayna nominated in the English language arts category. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 15 at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall.

Saniah Maul: The “Bubbling One.”

Her parents call her their “bubbly baby,” full of energy and infectious joy.

Saniah plans to start at Florida A&M University in the fall as a junior majoring in animal science industry. She says she wants to become a wildlife veterinarian and later a science teacher.

“I really like zoology. Animals are just so different and I love them,” said Saniah.

According to her mother, Saniah is a “doer,” meaning that when she has a desire to do something, she does it immediately without the need for planning.

She is the recipient of two Advanced Placement Scholar Awards and a community service award from Godby High.

Llayna Maul: The meticulous writer

Llayna likes structure and before she does anything she makes a plan, which is why she hasn't decided which university she will attend yet, but she knows she wants to major in psychology.

“I’m still weighing all my options,” she said. “I think it’s really interesting to learn about the science of why people do the things they do.”

Llayna enjoys reading and writing gothic and horror stories, and as president of the TCC Creative Writing Club, she focuses her writing on these topics. She is a recipient of the Yale Book Award, given to students who excel in English-language arts and literature.

Their parents said they will support their girls no matter what happens and know there are even better things ahead for them in the future.

“I will support my children in whatever they want to do, wherever they want to go, wherever they feel they can learn the most, because I know that learning is their top priority,” said James Leonard.

Alaijah Brown covers children and families for the Tallahassee Democrat. She can be reached at [email protected].

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