Karen Tate and Richard Charles have three reasons to celebrate this graduation season: Hannah, Baylie and Carly, their triplets graduating with not one, but two diplomas. The Charles triplets will graduate from George Wythe High School and also with honors from Wytheville Community College.
Thanks to the coronavirus, graduation ceremonies will be different this year: WCC will hold a virtual graduation later this month; GWHS is still holding out for a traditional ceremony, but nothing is certain at this point.
Tate and Charles will miss seeing their daughters walk across a stage to accept their diplomas, but understand the reason.
“We’re sad about it because they have worked so hard to get both of those degrees,” Tate said.
“”It’s a bummer,” Charles said. “They have done a lot of work. I feel bad for them, but it is what it is. There only so much you can do right now.”
In addition to their GWHS diplomas, Baylie will receive a science degree from WCC; her sisters will receive WCC degrees in general studies.
The triplets were born April 6, 2002. They have an older sister, Sarah Charles, now 27, who lives in Wytheville. Seventeen years ago when the Wytheville Enterprise profiled the family for the triplet’s first birthday, Tate and Charles were busy with diapers and feedings. As the years, progressed, their lives got a bit easier – mostly because of the girls, they said.
“They are best friends with each other,” Tate said. “They have been great girls; they have never given me one bit of problem. Never. They’ve always done their school work and have been really good girls.”
Their father agrees.
“They have not given us much trouble at all,” he said. “They do their school work, they have good friends, they don’t get in trouble, they go to church and they know the Lord.”
In the fall, the girls will continue their education at Emory & Henry College.
Hannah is the oldest, followed by Baylie, then Carly. One minute separates each girl. That’s a lot of love in three minutes.
At E&H, Hannah will room with Carly. Baylie plans to room with a friend.
Hannah plans to get a master’s degree in education and become a teacher.
“I just have a really strong desire to teach children,” she said. “I think they are very fun and interesting. I think it would be fun to teach them the basics to become successful adults.”
A cheerleader at GWHS, she has a scholarship to cheer at E&H. Her favorite high school subject was English.
“I don’t mind writing,” she said. “I think it’s fun to be imaginative with my writing. I find grammar fascinating.”
For Hannah, the best part of being one of three is that there has always been someone to help with school work.
“And it’s fun to tell people who ask that I am a triplet and to see their face,” she said. “Their jaw usually drops.”
The worst part is having to share everything.
“We always have to share a lot,” she said. “We have the same birthday, so you don’t get to have your special day to yourself; you are sharing it with others. But you grow into it.”
The girls are not identical – Hannah is blonde; her sisters are brunettes. Carley has brown eyes; her sisters’ eyes are blue.
“But, surprisingly, a lot of people do find it difficult to tell us apart, but not as much with me because I’m blonde,” Hannah said.
“People confused us, especially when we were younger,” said the 5-foot-8-inch Baylie. “I don’ t see how they can do it now – I have like six inches on Carly.”
Hannah is 5-foot-5 inches tall, and Carly is 5-foot-2-inches.
Baylie, the middle triplet, plans to study biology, her favorite subject at GWHS. She hopes to enter the medical field.
“Ideally, I’d like to be an anesthesiologist,” she said. “It’s interesting to learn about the human body and in surgery being able to help other people. I find it fascinating.”
For her, the best part of being a triplet is knowing someone always has your back.
“We take similar courses,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about having a friend in class because you always have a sister and always have a partner for group projects. And you don’t have to worry about them pulling their weight because you can badger them at home about it.”
The worst part is the same reason as the best part – there’s always someone there.
“It’s hard to get away and have that privacy of escaping from home sometimes because your sister is always right around the corner, literally, Baylie said.”
Outside of school, Baylie is president of the DECA marketing club, a member of FBLA and represents the school on the science MACC team.
When people realize she is a triplet, they “kind of freak out at first,” she said, adding they are happy to be able to say they know a triplet.
And that ask what it’s like,” Baylie said. “I tell them it’s fun. It’s normal, just like having a sibling.”
Carly plans to study history at E&H.
“I like learning about wars and stuff,” she said. She, too, is a member of FBLA.
Like her sisters, she likes being able to get help and advice about school work from one another.
“It’s nice to have them help me if I need the help,” she said, adding that she doesn’t like it if a sister gets mad at her if she doesn’t do her work.”
“It’s both a blessing and a curse,” she said.
Seventeen years ago, Tate described Hannah as the boss, Carly as happy-go-lucky and Baylie as more passive. Today, those descriptions still ring true.
Tate called Hannah as the most outgoing. Her father said she’s athletic, competitive and speaks her mind a little bit more than her sisters.
Carly is the funny one who makes the family laugh, Tate said. Richard Charles said she’s more of a homebody who likes to have fun – more of a clown.
Baylie is more reserved and a thinker, her parents said.
“She’s quiet, but she’s thinking,” her mother said.
“They are all such different personalities,” she added. “One of the most challenging parts of raising triplets is seeing them as individuals and not as a group. And trying to make sure they get what they need and making sure they are all loved the same.
“The best part,” Tate said, “is watching how close they are. They are best friends with each other.”
When the time comes to see the girls off to college, there will be some adjustments, their mother said.
“I’m probably going to be crying,” she said. “They have been with me most of the time. I am going to really miss them. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it when they leave for college because we do a lot together. It’s a wonderful accomplishment, especially to have the two degrees, and I’m so proud of them, but it’s going to be an adjustment for me.”
“They are moving on to another phase,” their dad said. “I am excited for them. I think they are well prepared and ready for college. I am ready to see their success.”
To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email email@example.com.