Triple crown: Parents of high achieving Lakeside triplets share secret: High expectations and lots of support

As the mother of triplets born at 32 weeks, Mary Boden uttered the first sigh of relief when her daughters, weighing 4 pounds, 3 1/2 pounds and 2 1/4 pounds, sat up and walked on schedule.

The DeKalb mom gave her second sigh of relief when the trio started first grade and kept pace with their classmates. But Stephanie, Lauren and Allison didn’t keep that pace for long.The girls have sped past most of their peers — on the sports field and in the classroom.

Accomplished athletes in baseball, softball and golf, the 17-year-old Boden triplets have now won another distinction. They are the highest-ranked academic graduates this year at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County.

Lauren — the first girl to ever make the Lakeside High baseball team — is valedictorian; Stephanie and Allison — who have led their school golf team to several titles — tied for salutatorian. Had it not been for a grueling Advanced Placement calculus that gave Stephanie and Allison their only B’s, the three would have tied for the top slot in their graduating class of 300.

Their academic accomplishments have inspired their two younger siblings and created a bit of legend around them in their DeKalb community where word is that if you need homework help at 2 a.m, call the Boden sisters because one of them will be up.

In fact, says mother Mary, at least one of the triplets is up until 1 a.m. most nights, working on homework after sports practice.

The trio will graduate from Lakeside with nine AP courses apiece, including the five courses they are now taking. Bypassing such top colleges as Emory and Duke, they have all agreed to attend prestigious Pomona College in California, where they plan to play softball. Allison will also play golf.

To learn how parents raise such superstars, I talked with Mary and Scott Boden, both physicians who met at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. (Scott also received his undergraduate degree at the university.)

With five children, Mary spent most of her medical career in health administration since the family schedules couldn’t accommodate two doctors on call.

A Stanford graduate, she worked as a primary care doctor for several years before becoming medical director and vice president of Cigna Healthcare for Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Scott is an Emory professor of orthopedic surgery and director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. He is also Lakeside High’s assistant softball coach, a byproduct of watching and helping his own children over the years.

Obviously, the triplets come from a household where academic achievement matters. Both parents ranked around sixth in high school graduating classes of 600 students, placing them in the top 1 percent of their peers.

But with five children, how do you avoid getting a single slacker in the mix? Susanne, 15, and Michael, 13, are also strong students and avid athletes. The triplets and Susanne — the second girl to make the Lakeside High baseball team — also play on the Chicago Pioneers women’s baseball team that won the first Roy Hobbs World Series in 2007. Lauren pitched the entire game, striking out 20 players and allowing only one hit.

Scott Boden says he and his wife created the expectation in their children that they would excel and that a grade of 91 was not acceptable if they were capable of a 98.

“The message was to always do the most you could do rather than the least,’’ he says. “We figured out what they were capable of doing and then held them to that.”

Did he ever worry that he was badgering them when he expressed disappointment at seeing a 90 on a test?

“Pushing them beyond their capabilities is badgering and unrealistic,” he said. “The issue is figuring out what your kids are capable of and setting the bar at that point. You have to make sure kids are performing at whatever level of their capabilities and that they are always being challenged.”

Eventually, the girls themselves sought out greater challenges, asking for extra credit from their teachers. For example, their mother counseled them against taking five AP classes this year, feeling that senior year ought to be more relaxed.

“They wanted to do it,” she says. “We talked about it and I told them that once you sign up, you make a commitment. But they are the ones dragging us along.”

Is that drive born or bred in a child?

“I think parents have a lot to do with it,” says Mary Boden. “One thing I notice is that a lot of parents step back in the middle school and high school years and I didn’t.

“I still wanted to know who my kids were hanging out with. I asked a lot of questions, went over their decision-making with them. We would go over things in the news and discuss the consequences of people’s mistakes,” she says.

Mary Boden credits sports with teaching her daughters how to prioritize and organize their lives. “They figure out what homework they have to do. I do not,” she says. “They are the ones who have to figure out how long it is going to take and they are the ones doing the homework.”

Between academics, extracurriculars such as yearbook and sports, the triplets didn’t have time for part-time jobs. “School was their job,” says Mary Boden.

“But we didn’t pay them for good grades,” says Scott Boden. “Our feeling was that their job was to get good grades. If they did that, they were able to participate in sports. But if they were struggling in a class, the clear message was that if you didn’t pull this up, you won’t be finishing softball and you won’t be playing basketball.”

While Mary Boden is delighted that her daughters’ hard work has paid off, she says, “I am happy they got an excellent education and did the best they could. If they were graduating number 10 or 20 in their class and still had done this level of work, I would be just as proud of them.”

52 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Triple crown: Parents of high achieving Lakeside triplets share secret: High expectations and lots of support http://bit.ly/9Utk0s [...]

V for Vendetta

April 30th, 2010
7:01 pm

Let’s see here:

Involved parents: check

High expectations: check

Discipline: check

Athletics: check

Uber successful children: CHECK.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that the girls have good genetics backing them up, but I think the contributions of the parents acting as parents is the most laudable aspect of this story. Kudos to the Bodens. They are examples of all that is possible when parents and teachers work together for the good of the children. Bravo.

(Maureen, I also would have loved to know how early the Bodens began reading to their children. I would be willing to bet it was at a VERY young age.)

k teacher

April 30th, 2010
7:47 pm

Ditto what “V” said!!

25-yr. DeKalb Teacher

April 30th, 2010
10:07 pm

What an inspiring story. The parents of these children should be commended. Raising childern is tough work, and they benefit when parents are involved, diligent, and consistent. Obviously the high expectations for the Boden children has paid the kinds dividends that count…..accomplished, confident children who succeed in their chosen endeavors.

oldtimer

April 30th, 2010
10:30 pm

What wonderful parents! They did everything right….They should be teaching parenting classes..I would have lovedthese girls in my class. it is all about expectations.

rosie

May 1st, 2010
6:36 am

Triple Ditto V’s post. There isn’t much left to say. Just wish all parents felt the same sense of responsibility for their children.

high school teacher

May 1st, 2010
8:07 am

Wow. I also like the fact that they aren’t “paid” for their good grades. My siblings and I were never rewarded monetarily for stellar report cards, yet we always had stellar report cards. Like this family, my parents had high expectations.

To the Boden parents: thank you for relying on public school to educate your children.

DunMoody

May 1st, 2010
8:44 am

Hurray! A well written story about a PUBLIC SCHOOL education! And I know these wonderful scholar-athletes aren’t an anomaly. I see kids just like them every day in the halls of our own high school. I’m so very proud of and awed by their passion to excel and their parents’ very visible support.

dbow

May 1st, 2010
9:27 am

Awesome Job! Just because the public school have lowered their standards doesn’t mean parents have to.

Morrus

May 1st, 2010
9:36 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

South-End Mom

May 1st, 2010
9:38 am

I commend the parents as well as the students!!! When parents are involved in their children lives especially in high school being aware of the influences that may surround their children such as friends is awesome! So many parents in present times are tring to be their children friends. Kudos to the Bodens and the triplets! may God richly bless you in your endevors!!!!

Tonya T.

May 1st, 2010
9:42 am

I so agree with the mom about letting up during middle and high school. I became a SAHM last year because my oldest was going into 5th grade, and I know I’ll need to stay on top of him to make sure he is guided properly. Every parent, working or SAH, needs to heed Mrs. Boden’s sage advice.

Lee

May 1st, 2010
10:10 am

Good for them. Congrats to the girls and their parents. This is merely an example of what a young person can achieve when all the things come together.

IQ – let’s face it, if you have an IQ of 85, you’re not going to be valedictorian. The parents of these girls were both physicians, which indicates they had an above average IQ. When both parents have a high IQ, the probability of having high IQ children is increased.

Inner drive. Ability means nothing without effort. Obviously, these young ladies had the inner drive to succeed.

Parenting. Even high ability, high achieving kids need a prod every now and then.

I know nothing of Lakeside. Would these ladies had the same measure of success in a high performing private school such as Westminster? We may never know. I do know that when my high ability, high performing daughter first enrolled in a very good private school, her grades dropped a full letter grade. Why? Because at her old public school, she was a top student. At her new private school, she was being rated against her actual peer group.

Nonetheless, the Boden girls should enjoy much success in their life.

Free Market Educator

May 1st, 2010
10:38 am

What? These successful young ladies didn’t choose one of the “Ivies”?
Perhaps they’re even smarter than we think.
Kudos for the home school style parenting techniques. It’s a shame these parents are in such a minority.

????

May 1st, 2010
11:33 am

Lee, I sooo agree with you!The same thing happened to my child, once going into a very competitive private school from public. He was the cream of the crop at public. First year at private high school median range. This does go to show how much different standards are. We did this for my child to be challenged, however now wonder if he should go back to public and receive his once again straight A’s. To the parents of these beautiful girls, way to go!!!! I get such grief about having my child strive to achieve his best. I do believe if a child is capable and has proved himself before than A’s is what is expected. This has to do with self pride and responsibility. Once one excepts lower of one’s self it becomes a pattern. It truly all starts at home.

V for Vendetta

May 1st, 2010
2:50 pm

Lee,

I agree with you here, but I would doubt that the Boden girls would have had different results at a major private school. Lakeside is to Dekalb as Brookwood is to Gwinnett, Lassiter is to Cobb, and Northview is to North Fulton. It’s about as good as public ed. gets in this state.

FME,

Are you freaking kidding me? Home-school-style parenting techniques? Being involved in your children’s lives and helping them to grow up to be productive, contributing members of society is just good parenting–period. That was a (very) weak attempt to equate the Boden girls’ success with homeschooling and ignore the fact that Lakeside is probably the best high school in Dekalb. I would also imagine that the aforementioned schools in my response to Lee, as well as schools such as Walton, Alpharetta, Harrison, North Gwinnett, Parkview, etc., would all produce high achieving students who are academically equal to–or superior to–any students who are homeschooled. Though there is room for massive improvement in the way we educate people in this country, as a public educator, I take umbrage at your suggestion that it was “home school style” parenting that produced these phenomenal sisters. I’m sure some fantastic teachers had a hand in it, too.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christina Bentheim. Christina Bentheim said: Triple crown: Parents of high achieving Lakeside triplets share secret: High expectations and lots of support | Ge… http://bit.ly/aCdqEI [...]

high school teacher

May 1st, 2010
5:49 pm

So, FME, according to you, not being involved in your child’s life is regular parenting, but being involved is homeschool style parenting. If that is the case, then there are hundreds of homeschool style parents out there.

jimbob

May 1st, 2010
5:53 pm

Congrats to the Bodens. I’m a Lakeside grad married to a Pamona grad and my wife loved her time there. To remove any ambiguity, it’s one of the best liberal arts schools in the country and doesn’t take a back seat to anyone. Some of her classmates turned down the chance to go to Stanford b/c they wanted to be taught by professors, not TAs.

Lee, your question is interesting and one I discussed with a fellow LHS grad that went to Yale. He actually said that the Ivy leagues need to look at different schools and counties, and that it’s probably better to go to a public HS and be near the top of the class than to go to a Westminster and only be in the top third or so. But there’s no exact science to it. I’m sure that everyone at Westminster that does well will get into a very good college.

Lakeside (and Chamblee?) are the cream of the crop for Dekalb high schools, and quite a few graduates go on to the ivy league, Duke, UVA and similar good schools.

????

May 1st, 2010
9:19 pm

Jimbob,So, better to transfer out of a great challenging private high school to a average public high school, be at the top of your class with easier A’s will look better than middle of the road with A’s and few B’s with all high achievers at a more competitive private high school. Sad, but so very true from what I am seeing and hearing. Well at least my child will be able to relax and take it easy while making his straight A’s if we decide to do this. Only problem is will he truly be prepared to make it throught college. I keep hearing that these straight A students that get these A’s through grade inflation to make HOPE lose HOPE the first semester because they weren’t truly prepared. Guess I will tell my child to forget about taking honors pre-calc as a 10th grader and just take GA new ACCl 3. This will look better. O.k. we are truly dumbing down this country if that’s the truth.

matureMomwithTwosmallChildren

May 1st, 2010
11:01 pm

Well said V for Vendetta!!! Such a refreshing story to read. I would also bet the parent (s) started reading to the children at an early age.

Proud Black Man

May 1st, 2010
11:11 pm

jimbob

May 1st, 2010
11:27 pm

????, Does Westminster rank their seniors?? My wife told me that at her private HS in California, they did NOT rank the seniors, and that a very high percentage got into very good schools.

It’s possible that if your kids transferred to a public HS, and graduated in the top 3 to 5 in their class, that maybe they’d have a better shot at getting into an ivy league–but it’s not for certain. All of that extracurricular, do-gooder stuff counts too.

I don’t know how often the top grads from some public high schools have problems in college. I do know that the top grads from Lakeside (and Chamblee, and maybe Dunwoody) are on a par with the top grads at the private schools, and tend not to have subsequent problems.

I tend to believe in Rosemond: parents worry about this stuff too much. Go with what works best for you. If your kids are motivated, they’ll do fine either way. If you’re in a very good public school district, I’m not sure it’s worth spending for private school, but to each his/her own.

????

May 2nd, 2010
12:22 am

I think this all depends on one’s views of good public school district. I truly can’t say we are in a very good public school district, however some around me feels if it is! I have done the research and can say, I don’t think so. We us to be in a pretty good district and this wouldn’t have been an issue. That would have been Pope High School. NOT NOW!!! We are in Cherokee. My student does not attend Westminister either. No, our school does not rank seniors because they ALL do very well!! They truly can’t! At least I know my child is going to school with extremely high achievers. They all do go on to great colleges. My point, is it necessary if your child is already extremely motivated and would look like a shinning star at local public school instead of average at his extremely challenging school. Especially since these colleges can’t just take the best from all of the private schools and have to branch out, so to speak, and seek out ALL counties and public schools. I can also add, that this year Georgia Tech has taken more females than males. This was very disappointing to some of my friends parents of males graduating from our private school this year. These male students did achieve everything from GPA to SAT scores. They are going on to Duke, Furman, Auburn, Princeton, Georgetown. You would think UGA and Tech would be in there some where. Not for the males this year!!!

HDATL

May 2nd, 2010
7:11 am

Congratulations to those three–great achievements. What did those girls get on their test scores?
I attended a prominent private school in the area, and I can tell you that it is a different world, both academically and socially. We had two members of our class struggle mightily their freshman years and then go on to be valedictorian and salutatorian at very large public schools in the suburbs. Approx 40 students in my class scored over 1500 on the SATs (old scoring system).

B-Head

May 2nd, 2010
7:24 am

I think some of you comparing Westminster to the area’s public schools are correct: it is very difficult to go from Westminster to the very, very best schools, like Harvard or Yale. On the other hand, it is not particularly difficult to get into very solid schools from there–like Georgetown, Dartmouth, Virginia, Duke, Vanderbilt, Northwestern. About 40 kids a year made over 1500 (on the old scale), and very few of those found a class centered on AP Calculus to be “grueling.” I think parents make the decision that they’d rather have their children attend Westminster and go on to Duke than send their kids to Public High and then Yale, particularly in light of Westminster’s alumni network.

Sk8ing Momma

May 2nd, 2010
7:25 am

Enter your comments here

Miriam

May 2nd, 2010
7:28 am

This is wonderful! I agree, that parents should keep up with the kids education all through high school. When the kids are in elementary school,some parents attend PTA meeting. Some kids seem to do very well in elementary school. When they go to Middle and High School. Parents stop coming to the school, and kids don’t want them to show up. But this is the important time to be there to see what is going on . Parents, don’ t let up on the kids, stick with them every step of the way. They will look back on it years from now and thank you. Be Blessed.

Sk8ing Momma

May 2nd, 2010
7:30 am

Downey — In your article you intimate that Pamona is not an as reputable/selective college as Emory or Duke. I *think* that Pamona is in fact more selective. Perhaps its a regional thing. (It’s been my experience having lived in several regions of the U.S. that Duke, and certainly Emory, are not considered top tier schools outside of the southeast or mid-Atlantic.)

In any event, congratulations to the girls! :)

lynn

May 2nd, 2010
8:35 am

I think that where private/public schools can make a difference is where kids apply to college,if they don’t have parental guidance. Ponoma is an awesome choice, but one that wouldn’t typically be on the radar screen of most Atlanta area public school counselors. For even the top students, the lure of the HOPE is substantial. And while we are often told that money doesn’t matter when choosing a college, for most families it does.

In addition, even at top schools like Westminster there are kids who end up at 2nd and 3rd tier schools, my neighbor’s child is at Ole Miss from Westminster and she isn’t alone. At another prestigious Atlanta area private school, many alumni are very frustrated because of the lack of Ivies and top 20s reflected in recent admission results.

When it comes to college admissions for top public school students, I really think that for most kids it comes down to what their parents know, what they are willing to pay, and how far they are willing to go from home. (Something like 66 percent of college students in the US are within a two hour drive of home.) Again, I think it is very hard to resist the lure of the HOPE for even the very top students.

Would these girls have been top ranked at Westminster or other top Atlanta schools? No way to know, but I will tell you that very often the Val and/or Sal at these schools has not been fully educated there.

the prof

May 2nd, 2010
9:58 am

PBM is not black…

Maureen Downey

May 2nd, 2010
11:54 am

Sk8ing Momma, I did not mean to suggest that Pomona is not a good school — it is a top-ranked college and very hard to get into. I meant that the girls had many good choices; two are also waitlisted at Harvard, by the way. To answer the blog question on their scores, all the girls scored very high on the SAT and the ACT.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

May 2nd, 2010
11:59 am

B-Head, I should have also noted that the girls were in the tougher of the two AP calculus courses offered. (Lakeside, by the way, has always led the state in AP offerings.)
And the triplets were well, well above the national average in both the SATs ande the ACTs.
I have written about a lot of high-achieving teens in my career. Very, very few can boast the academic and sports achievements of these three girls.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

May 2nd, 2010
12:04 pm

HDATL, I have to disagree with you on the rigor of private versus public schools. There are many public high schools with kids scoring above 1,500. Take a look at the Foundation Scholars list at UGA for the last few years.
I also want to note that the research suggests that straight A students from high schools, whether public or private, do very well in college. The issue is not the school, but the self-discipline and drive.
A smart, focused kid will do well in most any setting.

high school teacher

May 2nd, 2010
1:24 pm

More work does not equal more challenging.

On another note…
What do you call someone who graduated from Harvard med school? – Doctor
What do you call someone who graduated from Emory med school? – Doctor
What do you call someone who graduated from the Medical College of Georgia’s med school? – Doctor

HDATL

May 2nd, 2010
1:44 pm

Maureen,

Thanks for your thoughts. I should make clear that I really do find this family impressive. Congratulations to them.
But Maureen, of course there are many public school graduates scoring over 1500–there are hundreds of thousands of public school students who take the test every year and some do extremely well. And of course smart, focused students can do well in different settings. And of course some of these students are Foundation Fellows. Are these points relevant?
I was merely bringing some specificity from firsthand observation to a discussion otherwise dominated by vast generalities. Given the difference in test scores, college admittance, and most other quantifiable measurements, I think there’s a large difference, as many commenters have noted, between the students at high achieving private schools and public schools–maybe less so at the very, very top of each class. My apologies if my previous comment was somehow otherwise construed.

James

May 2nd, 2010
6:08 pm

Proud Black Man – yes, let’s celebrate all student achievement, but the reason this story is posted on the AJC, go figure, these kids are from ATLANTA!!!!

I beg to differ about the quality of schools like Duke and Emory vs. others, all one has to do is check out the AAU – http://www.aau.edu/, of which Georgia Tech became a member this year (Go Jackets!).

Also, these girls are to be commended regardless of where they went to school. Maureen, do you know what they plan on studying in school?

Proud Black Man

May 2nd, 2010
6:40 pm

“Proud Black Man – yes, let’s celebrate all student achievement, but the reason this story is posted on the AJC, go figure, these kids are from ATLANTA!!!!”

Why do tea baggers feel the constant need to patronize? Once again lets celebrate ALL STUDENT achievement.

http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/quad/

the prof

May 2nd, 2010
8:20 pm

Proud Blakkk Man isn’t actually black.

Proud Black Man

May 2nd, 2010
9:32 pm

@ the prof

such an annoying tea bagger.

the prof

May 3rd, 2010
8:18 am

PBM, is that the best you can do?

James

May 3rd, 2010
9:02 am

PBM,

Proves how smart you are, I’m an independent who voted for Obama, who is not a tea bagger, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be.

It’s disingenous at best and imbecilic at worst to not understand why Maureen would post a story about 3 triplets from Atlanta (in public schools) who have done some remarkable things academically instead of a story about 4 kids from Connecticut with no connection to ATL whatsoever. Those Crouch kids are amazing I agree, but there’s a logical reasoning why the NY Times is running that story on them (from the NE) and why the AJC would be running the story on the triplets.

Either you are a) not really black and just trying to stir up racial tension on the blog, or b) you are more of a race baiter than anyone I’ve ever met.

What is your problem?

RJ

May 3rd, 2010
12:17 pm

@high school teacher, I agree completely! Parents get so wrapped up in what school to send their kids to, what school they get into, and the list goes on. There are some OUTSTANDING public school teachers out there. Let’s not forget that you must score well on the SSAT to be accepted into Woodward, Westminster, Lovett, etc. I have had family members and friends to attend public school and graduate from an Ivy League school. What’s interesting is that not all of them have high paying careers. One is even in education.

“The issue is not the school, but the self-discipline and drive.
A smart, focused kid will do well in most any setting.” Thanks Maureen, that truly sums it up.

RJ

May 3rd, 2010
12:33 pm

@Sk8ing Momma, Emory has always been listed as a top school in every list I’ve read. I’m not sure about Duke, but they are considered a great school. In the end, what high school teacher stated stands true.

Maureen Downey

May 3rd, 2010
12:38 pm

RJ: I think on the most recent ranking that I saw Emory ranked 18, alongside Vanderbilt and Brown.
Maureen

Proud Black Man

May 3rd, 2010
1:39 pm

@ James
I could care less who you voted for, your opinion of me, or your opinion in general. Does that answer your question?

HB

May 3rd, 2010
2:21 pm

In rankings of national universities, Emory is consitently ranked in the top 20 (usually somewhere between 15 and 18 alongside schools like Brown, Johns Hopkins, and Wash U.). Duke is usually in the top 10 (in the past, often in the top 5). Pomona is a smaller liberal arts college ranked in the top tier of that category alongside schools like Swarthmore and Bowdoin.

the prof

May 3rd, 2010
3:20 pm

Pround Blakkk Man, you still aren’t black.

no mas

May 3rd, 2010
4:24 pm

Just sayin’ here… Is it possible that the proportion of private vs. public school kids who attend “Ivy League” colleges is related to family income? Is it possible that a kid who attended a public high school may be from a family that just can’t quite stretch to pay what’s left of the tuition after the financial aid along with the fees and travel costs? (I very recently researched this, and the northern schools have higher general fees than the southern schools – like $500 instead of $200). And remember that the “Ivy Leagues” are usually pretty far from Atlanta.) A kid whose family could afford the private school may not need to worry about the tuition, fees and travel costs.

My own personal kid (public school) was accepted to four “Ivy League” schools as well as Emory, but the total costs of the northern schools are double those of the southern schools, even though the financial aid awards were all comparable. My student chose to have money for a couple semesters abroad and the possibility of a no-income summer to allow for an internship.

Let’s look at acceptances rather than attendance, and see if we see a different picture.

And BTW, didn’t Mary Boden attend Pomona – might have had something to do with the girls’ decision.

Maureen Downey

May 3rd, 2010
4:33 pm

no mas, Mary Boden attended Stanford.