Sandy and Emily Gelinas, 18, are both very involved in their school and community, taking part in sports and extracurricular activities while holding down part-time jobs. In mid-March, the twins added another item to their list of accomplishments — they were both involved in President George W. Bush’s visit to their school, Canandaigua Academy.
Bush visited the school March 14 to lead a town-hall style meeting about the new Medicare Part D prescription-drug coverage plan. Sandy, who is president of Canandaigua Academy’s student government, was one of a handful of school representatives selected to meet the president. Meanwhile Emily, treasurer of the school’s National Honor Society chapter, escorted audience members to their seats inside the gymnasium where the president spoke. Emily was one of about 20 students allowed to remain in the gymnasium during Bush’s visit.
The twins, high-school seniors who belong to St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua, said they were surprised when they learned the president planned to visit their school.
“I knew he went to (the Rochester suburb of) Greece last year, but I didn’t think he’d come back to the same area twice in one year,” Emily said.
Sandy first learned March 10 that she might have the chance to meet the president the following week, but his visit to the area had not yet been confirmed at that point, she said. Later that night, Bush’s visit was confirmed, and Sandy was one of about seven people on hand to greet him when he stepped out of his limousine at her school.
Sandy gave Bush a souvenir T-shirt and told him she plans to major in political science at the University of Rochester next fall.
“I got to meet him for a few minutes. He liked the T-shirt a lot. He actually called me ‘Madam President,’ which was kind of cool,” Sandy said.
Although her political views don’t always line up with those of the president and she disagrees with some of his actions, Sandy said her meeting with Bush gave her a greater respect for him as a person.
“It definitely made me realize that he is a really personable and friendly guy,” she said.
Emily said seeing the nation’s president standing in her school was an unusual experience. She said she wasn’t especially interested in Medicare Part D, but still felt lucky to be in the gymnasium during the president’s talk.
“It was just cool to hear him speak,” she said.
Witnessing the president’s visit isn’t the only honor the twins have received this academic year as a result of their involvement in school activities. In November they received the diocesan Hands of Christ recognition, which is given annually to high-school seniors who have been actively involved in service efforts in their churches, schools and communities.
Both Emily and Sandy belong to their school’s Interact, a student version of the Rotary Club. Through the club, the sisters regularly participate in service activities, including a recent flower sale to raise money for a local charity, Emily said.
For Sandy, student government provides another avenue through which she can serve her peers in the school community.
“It gave me an opportunity to make a change in this school and improve it,” Sandy said.
Sandy says her interest in politics was sparked by her parents — who have been active in the local Democratic party — and by a relative who served on the Canandaigua City Council. She’d like to work in the political system, perhaps with a party or campaign, after graduating from college.
Emily is also busy planning for college. She hopes to major in business at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford or at the University of Rochester. She thinks she’d like to work in the business field because she likes helping and interacting with people, she said.
The twins are co-captains of the Canandaigua Academy cheerleading squad and also have been involved in the youth group at St. Mary’s since their freshman year. As middle-school students, the twins had watched their two older sisters enjoy youth-group activities, so they were eager to join the group once they reached high school.
“It’s really fun, and you get to meet new people,” Emily said of the youth group, noting she especially likes the group’s retreats. “That’s when you really bond with your friends and get to know other people.”
Both girls say their Catholic faith is the moral foundation on which they base their actions. Involvement in parish life also has provided a strong support system of people she trusts, Sandy said.
“I think (my faith) has helped me to reach out to people and make friends with other people and accept their differences,” Emily added.