Through hard work and adapting to new circumstances, identical twins Natalia and Mariella Avanni have created a bright future for themselves. 

When the Coronado High School seniors were 15 months old, they were adopted by the Avanni family, who, at the time, only was planning on adopting one child.

Their mom, Ann-Marie, discovered there was an option for twins around a month before traveling to China. 

“It’s been a pretty amazing journey.”

Ann-Marie Avanni on adopting and raising twins Natalia and Mariella Avanni.

“It’s been a pretty amazing journey,” Ann-Marie said. “Just from start to right now. It took us about two years to go through China’s adoption process. And, at the end of two years, about a month before we traveled, our agency called and said, ‘How do you feel about twins?’”

Natalia (left) stands with her twin sister Mariella Avanni at Coronado High School, where the sisters excelled in the classroom and golf. Photo courtesy of the Avanni family.

Numerous moves and excelling in school

Until they came to Coronado seven years ago, the family had moved numerous times like many military families do.

The twins said they were able to experience different places like Hawaii, Washington, D.C.,  and Louisiana.

Despite all the changes, the twins excelled in the classroom and had near-identical grade point averages.

According to their mom, Natalia will finish high school with a 4.5 GPA, while Mariella has a 4.44 GPA.  The twins will turn 18 on June 23.

Who’s who?

Once they got to Coronado, they joined the golf team at the middle school because they had been playing golf with their family. 

They continued playing golf at Coronado High School and Natalia and Mariella said a funny moment they would not forget was when they were freshmen and Natalia hit a hole-in-one. 

When the coach went to give her a trophy, it had Mariella’s name on it because he mixed up who shot it. 

Natalia Avanni (left) stands with Coronado High School golf coach Stuart Gordon and her sister, Mariella. Photo courtesy of the Avanni family.

Joining NJROTC

Along with golf, the twins started NJROTC, or Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, during their sophomore year.

According to Commander William H. Nesbitt and Senior Chief Thomas Hellwig, the  NJROTC program at Coronado High School strives to help cadets develop high leadership, personal responsibility, and self-discipline.

Mariella said one of her most memorable moments from NJROTC was doing a sailing academy and learning how to sail several boats. 

Optimist Club scholarship winners

Their commitment and success in NJROTC led to them each being awarded a $3,000  scholarship from the Optimist Club of Coronado on June 1.

“They have been exceptionally active in the community and demonstrate the commitment to service that the Optimists are known for in Coronado.”

-Commander William H. Nesbitt on the twins.

“They have been exceptionally active in the community and demonstrate the commitment to service that the Optimists are known for in Coronado,”  Hellwig said. “Mariella and Natalia have grown so much as leaders, and it has been great to see them rise from brand new cadets to now mentoring the younger students entrusted to their leadership. It is a joy to observe Mariella and Natalia leading their respective NJROTC platoons with ever-increasing poise and confidence.”

The Optimist  Club of Coronado was started in 1972 by a Navy captain. 

Bill Parry, an Optimist Club scholarship selection committee member, commended the girls’ grades, perseverance, activeness in sports and extracurricular activities and community service as to why they deserved the scholarship. 

“Impossible” to chose one over the other

Usually, the organization only gives three scholarships, and the twins each applied for the same NJROTC award.  

Mariella Avanni stands in the foreground while her sister, Natalia, can be seen walking. Photo courtesy of the Avanni family.

However, the Optimist Club didn’t want the sisters to split the $3,000 scholarship, so this year, four awards were given, with each Avanni sister getting the total amount. (The other $3,000 awards went to Tayah Bubulka and Austin Miller)

Parry said it was “impossible” to choose one sister over the other, so the club raised extra money and gave them an equal scholarship.

On to UCSD to study cognitive science

Once the Avanni sisters start college next fall at the University of California San Diego, they plan to use the scholarship money toward their cognitive science major.

When Natalia and Mariella are not golfing or at NJROTC, they say they like drawing, painting, and reading fiction novels.

As a family, they cook some of their favorite foods like Gnocchi dumplings and  Jambalaya.  

From what Mariella and Natalia have been through, their mom could not be more delighted for them.

“I’ve been really proud of seeing them accomplish all they have and become who they are.”

Ann-Marie Avanni on the twins.

“I’ve been really proud of seeing them accomplish all they have and become who they are,” Ann-Marie said. 

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Andrew Nadler is a sports journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He's a Southern California native whose passion is to work in sports media and to be a storyteller to those who do not have a platform.