Taylor and Zac Scornavacco were too young to lose their father. The twins, among four siblings, were 11-year-old sixth graders when Michael Scornavacco died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.
Their mother, Nancy Scornavacco, faced financial hardships amid the Great Recession that compounded the challenges her family faced. How her children would handle those challenges, she acknowledged, at the time was an open question.
“Adversity can go many ways for young kids,” she said. “You never know how people are going to handle things.”
Michael Scornavacco is still missed.
But earlier this month, the family marked an important milestone on a difficult road they believe honors their father’s legacy.
The Scornavacco twins proudly wore caps and gowns at a Torrey Pines High School graduation ceremony that sent Taylor and Zac to college with distinction.
Taylor, a Stanford-bound lacrosse standout, was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Year after leading the Falcons to an unbeaten season that culminated with a state championship and a ranking atop the MaxPreps.com national poll.
Zac has made his mark in student government at Torrey Pines and is a recipient of four leadership awards, including the prestigious Hunt Leadership Award at Southern Methodist University. He received a full academic scholarship to SMU.
“It was a very incredible experience to me personally” Zac said. “The point where I was in seventh grade when I lost my dad to the point where I was at graduation was just an incredible transformation.
“Just being able to see myself at that point graduating and getting that diploma and accepting the individual I was then and the man I grew into was remarkable to me.”
The graduation moment was the culmination of sacrifice and resourcefulness.
Their older brother, Jake, was a 14-year-old rising golf star at the time of their father’s death. He put his golfing career aside to help run a family business, Sweet Things Frozen Yogurt (their father had always called his children “sweet things”).
“He gave it all up instead to take over our family business so that me and my twin brother and my little brother could focus on getting through school at the time we were in middle school, and then go on to high school and not have to worry about working too much during school and be able to focus on our athletics and academics,” Taylor said. “For me, I always felt that was a gift I would never be able to repay, so I really wanted to make the most of the time that my brother gave me and my mom gave me.”
She and her brother’s dogged determination paid off.
Taylor was a competitive softball player who hadn’t even picked up a lacrosse stick until the summer before her freshman year. She caught the attention of Stanford coaches the following year, and emerged as one of nation’s top players in less than three years.
She led the Falcons to a state championship, with the team going 22-0 and finishing the season ranked No. 1 in the nation in MaxPreps’ ranking. Taylor was a two-time San Diego Section Player of the Year.
Zac was a recipient of the school’s Golden Falcon award for boys in academic leadership.
He was elected class president his junior year and the student body president his senior year.
He was also a recipient of the Global Leadership Connection Award, and Torrey Pines’ Harvard Leadership Award, sending him to the East Coast on paid trips to Washington D.C. and Cambridge, Mass.
Taylor and Zac both graduated with 4.2 GPAs.
Their younger brother, Luke, is an incoming freshman at Cathedral Catholic High School who wants to play football.
All four kids have pitched in to help run the yogurt shop.
“We were just a family that believed in one another,” Nancy Scornavacco said. “They wanted to succeed because they knew their dad wouldn’t be there to take care of us. They helped in making that business successful, they worked very hard at their academics and that paid off for them. As a widow, I very much appreciate the drive and tenacity of these guys.”
Zac plans to major in business with minors in communication and political science. He’s considering the possibility of a career in politics.
Taylor plans to attend Naval Academy after completing her studies at Stanford. She wants to study human biology so she can be a Navy surgeon, an ambition she’s had for years as a way of giving back to those who sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy.
Both Taylor and Zac take nothing for granted.
“Now that I’m going to Stanford and I’ve achieved this through athletics I’m going to hopefully be able to take it even further and create a career for myself so that I can help pay back those that helped me along the way and let me focus on what I really wanted to do and follow my dreams,” Taylor said.