Siblings share stories of home and school

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Photo Illustration: Boraan Abdulkarim Photo Credits: Meghan Joyce (headshots), Catherine Braman (cutouts).

School and siblings don't always mix, but there's no denying the support siblings receive from having brothers or sisters already on campus. From left to right: Charlie Hooley, Michael Hooley, Moira McCarthy, Ellen McCarthy, Justin Jallen, Ashley Jallen, Thomas Toghramadjian, and Raffi Toghramadjian.

By Meghan Joyce

Sibling dynamics are undeniably complex. Only siblings can know each other well enough to be both the bane of their siblings’ existence and their best friend.

“I get along with them. My siblings don’t [get along with each other]. But I’m like the best, so…” junior Charlie Hooley said. Hooley is the oldest of four siblings, all of whom attend St. Paul Academy and Summit School.

As “the best [sibling],” Hooley has tried to pass down essential lessons, usually basic tips for getting through life or navigating high school. Apparently, his siblings fail to recognize the wisdom of his vast, worldly knowledge. “I do [give them advice] sometimes, but they won’t listen,” he said.

Junior Justin Jallen is the oldest of his siblings at SPA. According to Jallen, his little sister is open to hearing his advice. “I’ll tell her how to do homework, how not to do homework… give her the rundown on teachers,” Jallen said.

Senior Ellen McCarthy said she wants to give her sister, sophomore Moira McCarthy advice too, although Moira never needs it: “She has learned some things just from me going through everything first, but she’s pretty independent and smart,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes I wish I had someone before me so I could learn from their mistakes.”

I was not constitutionally inclined to do debate…[I was] painfully shy. But the fact that Hagop did it…gave me confidence that I could.”

— Thomas Toghramadijian, senior

Senior Thomas Toghramadjian said he thinks having an older sibling at SPA is an asset to his little siblings. “It helped me to be following in Hagop [Toghramadjian, ‘13]’s footsteps, and I think hopefully I’ve helped Raffi out, too,” he said.

The support provided by having an older sibling encouraged Toghramadjian to try things he otherwise wouldn’t have. “Basically, being in the ‘Toghramadjian Dynasty’ is like having a lot of good expectations… I was not constitutionally inclined to do debate, Upper School Council, or anything that involved public speaking – [I was] painfully shy. But the fact that Hagop did it made me feel both an obligation to do them and a desire to do them, he gave me confidence that I could,” he said.

It can be tough to be the older sibling, but Hooley said he is glad to be the oldest. “I’m kind of in charge, and I like that they make my house more fun,” Hooley said.

McCarthy has fun being at school with Moira. “There really isn’t a bad part; I love seeing her at school… and I love making her laugh. She literally has the best laugh,” McCarthy said.

Often, McCarthy hears about “Moira moments” from her friends and teachers. “She tends to do things that stand out, so I hear about them,” she said.

Toghramadjian often talks about his siblings with teachers. “I think because it’s so obvious that we try to follow each other, they try to intentionally avoid comparing us. They want us all to be independent, but at the same time they definitely ask us about [each other]…we’ll talk a lot about Raffi’s debate progress. They’ll ask about Hagop, too, in college.”

Hooley enjoys spending time with his siblings. “My little brother and I play basketball and baseball and we like the same sports. And then my other little brother — we’re closer in age, so we hang out a lot,” he said.

The McCarthy sisters both run ross country and track, and while Moira McCarthy is unable to Nordic ski with her sister, she manages the team. But the real way that they bond is over food. “We like to make pasta together. That’s a big one. Or smoothies!” McCarthy said.

According to Toghramadjian, his siblings do a lot together. “We all played on the same baseball teams, read the same books, debated together. We’ve played duets…done a lot of music ensembles casually, we do a lot of church activities together… Then there’s the Academic World Quest team…student council, too,” Toghramadjian said.

Some older siblings drive their little siblings to school every day. According to Hooley, the hardest thing about it is listening to his sibling’s crazy music on the way to school. For Jallen, it’s not so bad. “I drive my younger sister to school every morning but she’s pretty quiet: sometimes she sleeps, so not much goes on there,” Jallen said.

More than driving or fighting or looking after their little siblings, the biggest burden of the older sibling is the inevitable moment when they leave the nest and their siblings behind. While sibling dynamics are complex, it can be difficult to say goodbye.

“I’m going to miss her next year [at college],” McCarthy said. “We’re probably the closest we’ve been since we were really little and didn’t have school, so I’m especially going to miss her now,” she said.