By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
Vandegrift High School adds a number of new students each year and, this year, four of those students are drawing some special attention.
Talal, Dana, Alma and Fotoun Hakim are 16-year-old quadruplets originally from Dubai who recently started the new school year as juniors at VHS. The siblings moved to the United States with their parents and older brother at the age of 11, and attended middle school and the first two years of high school in Ft. Meyers, Fla.
The Hakim family moved to Austin specifically for VHS because of its good reputation.
“They have indicated that they chose Vandegrift for the BioMedical program we offer,” said VHS Principal Charlie Little. “We are seeing more families choosing Vandegrift as a destination school for our academic programs, quality extracurricular, IB, and amazing community.”
Talal, Dana and Alma each want to pursue various fields of medicine and Fotoun said she wants to be an engineer.
“Our school is the most important thing,” said Alma. “We looked on a website that has all the top-ranked high schools in Texas and Vandegrift High School was the fifth one.”
They said their parents have always taught them to work hard. They also help keep each other on track.
“We push each other,” Talal said.
The four said they are more similar to each other than different, though they do have different hobbies and interests. Alma is the only singer out of the four and said she hopes to enroll in a theater class next year. Dana enjoys playing soccer and Fotoun likes volleyball.
They also have an older brother, Ammar, who is currently studying at Austin Community College with plans to transfer to The University of Texas.
All four said they’ve enjoyed growing up as a quadruplet, but they know it has been hard for their parents, Mark and Ann.
“They used to tell us, ‘If one cries, we all cry,’” Talal said.
Though they don’t have much of an accent, the siblings’ native language is Arabic and they only started learning English five years ago when they moved to Florida. They had a special English teacher and said it took about three years for them to become comfortable speaking.
“It was really hard,” Alma said.
After their first week of school, they said the thing that stood out to them most was the teachers and staff.
“The teachers here are amazing,” Alma said. “They explain everything really well.”
Little said VHS hosts special acclimation activities and orientations for all new students to help them get adjusted to life at a new school.
“Our PALS students and counseling staff work hard to ensure that all of our new students are connected,” Little said.
Talal said VHS is much bigger than their last high school.
“It’s like four times bigger,” he said. “Here, the football field is so much nicer. In Florida, there were no numbers on the grass.”
For now, the Hakims are looking forward to getting involved in school and exploring Austin. They moved into their new home in Steiner Ranch in late June.
“We’re still exploring,” Talal said. “We really like it. It’s really nice. In Florida, it was boring.”
Little said the students seem to be adjusting just fine.
“They all came to their first football game and seem to be full-fledged Vipers already,” Little said.
The Hakims said everyone they’ve met has been very friendly.
“This is much better than I expected,” Talal said. “This school is amazing.”