Eight cousins in same class graduate from American Falls

May 18, 2019

AMERICAN FALLS — For many people, finding and keeping friends can be one of the most difficult aspects of school. But for a group of cousins about to graduate from American Falls High School, a social circle was always readily available.

Kortnee Roland, Zoe Woodruff, Ashlee Michael, Kierstin Hensley, Payton Kress, Jason Kress, Logan Kress and Austin Garcia are all cousins who have lived in American Falls most of their lives, and all but one of them have attended school together since kindergarten. (Hensley moved to American Falls when she was in the fourth grade.)

“For me, it’s really nice because I’m antisocial,” Roland said, “so it’s nice to know I always have my cousins there for me.”

“Yeah, if anything ever happens, all of us are right there for each other,” Michael added.

Michael came into the family through marriage, and she said it was disconcerting at first to realize just how large her family had become. The students said they have about 100 cousins.

“It was weird at first for me,” she said. “Coming from a really small family to going to a really big family was weird. It was crazy to see just how much family I had.”

And though the cousins said they often fight like siblings, they all agreed that having a large group of family nearby has helped them through school.

Most of them have classes together, and some of them said they have had almost exactly the same schedules in the past. They’ve also played on the same sports teams. Payton, Jason and Logan, who are triplets, said having a close bond has sometimes given them an athletic advantage.

Four of the cousins even went to prom together as a group.

“It’s so nice to be able to go to school and not worry that you wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with,” Michael said.

Particularly during difficult periods, such as middle school, the cousins said they often relied on each other, even if they were fighting.

“Middle school was a hard time in all of our lives, but just knowing that we had each other there really helped,” Roland said.

“We all fought a lot in middle school, but we grew up and realized it wasn’t worth fighting over stupid stuff,” Hensley added.

As the teens prepare to graduate, they said it is going to be difficult to adjust to not seeing each other every day.

“I’m used to coming to school and seeing everyone I know,” Michael said. “So college is going to be really hard.”

Some of the students will be attending Idaho State University, others will be working and some are still unsure of their future. But they all hope to stay in touch.

“We have three or four other cousins who are older, but they were all the same age like us,” Michael said. “And they’re all still really close to each other because they went to high school together. So I feel like we’ll always have that.”

The group is planning to have a giant party together after their graduation on May 31, along with a ninth cousin who will also be graduating, but from Pocatello High School.

“(Graduating together) is going to be a fun memory,” Roland said, “and a really good story to tell.”