By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The other guy looks more clean-cut and frequencies the NJROTC area in the school. The long-haired fella, Dean, preferred playing sports like baseball and golf while achieving his academic excellences as part of the Class of 2019.
Meanwhile the other student, Rockwell, sports a military uniform and participates in functions related to the ROTC often while earning the best grade-point average at MCHS.
Both Dean and Rockwell will share the stage May 16 on the Millington Football Field as the Salutatorian and Valedictorian respectively during the 2019 MCHS Commencement.
The brothers have taken opposing paths to the top. The fact they are brothers still surprises many of their teachers and classmates.
“It takes a while before anybody figures it out,” Rockwell said. “It will take anywhere from a few days to a year. ‘Oh yeah, I remember I had class with him one year.’ It was just last week I told somebody we were twins.
“It’s usually the differences,” he added. “If we were identical twins or did similar things it would be different. Most people don’t even realize we are brothers. ‘You look so different. I didn’t realize you were brothers.’ They always talk about the differences.”
The sons of Diane and the late Howard Karash grew up in Rockford, Illinois before moving to Millington in time to start the eighth grade. Raised by Diane and their stepfather Mark Huetson, the boys were allowed to pursue individual interests.
“To be honest there isn’t much in common except we both excelled at school,” Dean noted. “When we care about something, we’re dedicated. It’s just we’re dedicated to different things I guess the trait is there.”
Dean was devoted to academics and athletes. Meanwhile Rockwell was focused on his grades and the NJROTC.
“We were always looking for different things,” Rockwell said. “I never really tried to completely compete with him. If we would take test in the same class I would be like, ‘Ha, I did better than you.’ Or he’ll be like, ‘I did better than you.’ We really took a different path in school. We didn’t follow a similar path so I don’t think the competition was there as much as it would be if we were in all the same classes.”
Dean remembered growing up having a natural brotherly rivalry. But when it came time for the twins to separate, the boys easily gravitated to their own way.
“We’ve had different interests since we were younger,” he said. “He was playing board games while I was playing basketball. Neither one of us had a chance at the others’ domain. School was the only thing that was competitive. Just the difference of me taking a dual writing class and he wanted to take classic literature class.
“I was into my music stuff and he was into science,” Dean added. “The few classes we had together, we were competing to get A’s, but the direct confrontation was never there because we’re so different.”
One similarity for the brothers was being visual representatives of the Trojans. Rockwell got his chance to carry the Millington banner on local television for four years.
“Where I was most visible was Knowledge Bowl,” he recalled. “Going onto Channel 3 and doing that is what really got me out there. With the confidence to step up and really do stuff within my unit. That was important to putting myself out there. Walking around freshman year, I was like ‘Hey I am a weird kid. But let’s put me in front of the cameras and see what happens.’
“I really enjoyed it. Mr. Jim Jaggers and Dr. Richard R. Ranta are incredible people,” Rockwell continued. “Mr. Graham our school’s coordinator is amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better coach.”
Dean received coaching from Bruce Marshall in golf for a season and Zane Adams in baseball for three years.
“I was always playing varsity sports,” he said. “It felt different because folks look at Millington, I don’t want to say they always look at Millington as a bad school. But they don’t always look at academics as the first thing that comes to their minds, not really baseball or golf when they’re talking about sports.
“Just the fact that I was still out there, I always wanted to put on the best show of sportsmanship as possible,” Dean added. “Sometimes our school’s teams have lacked that. I wanted to show them even if I wasn’t playing good baseball. I was still somebody they wanted to have as a teammate.”
While the guy they call Dean-O will be remembered as a good teammate, he is directing his future toward working with machinery.
“Believe it or not, I’ve kind of struggled dealing with people,” he acknowledged. “I don’t really like talking to a lot of them. So I am enrolling into TCAT to be a machinist. I never really like the idea of traditional school. I had people telling me you’re really smart so you should go to school. You got a 30 on the ACT so you should look into going to school.
“When I started taking dual enrollment classes, I didn’t feel it was worth the money and effort,” Dean continued. “I enjoyed it but I just felt like after my campus visit to technical school seeing all the machines and everybody in there it was real and getting something done. You can see firsthand that training. I thought it was really cool. After talking to the instructors, I just decided to enroll.”
Once again the brothers will be on opposite paths with Rockwell accepting the National Presidential Preparatory NROTC Scholarship.
“I really walked into school my freshman year not really knowing what I wanted to do,” Rockwell said. “I wasn’t forced at all or pushed. That’s not the point of the program. Through NJROTC, I found what I wanted to do. With our step-father Mark you can see with our family, service is something I felt I was called to do. I feel that I am capable of doing. If I am capable there are a lot of others who are capable. But I am the only one who can make sure somebody is going to serve and that’s me.”
“I don’t really want to go into politics,” Rockwell said. “I want to do my time with the Navy and when I am done with that I want to instruct Junior ROTC and do for people what was done for me by Lt. Commander Galloway and Senior Chief Fontante and Senior Chief Sisung.”
Rockwell is reminded daily of the importance of service to country with photos of Mark and other family members in uniform hanging in the house. It was that additional motivation that inspired him to take advantage of the resources of Millington Central High School.
“We’ve been given so many opportunities with a school that offers so many things from ROTC to AP dual enrollment and dual credit classes with incredible staff members,” Rockwell said. “Multiple doctors, one of the 16 Master Chiefs from the whole Navy, I feel like we need to go out into the world and show we have not squander these tools and opportunities we’ve been given.”
Dean said whether the MCHS community remembers them as twins, brothers or just the top two of the Class of 2019, he wants the Karash legacy to be two students who made Millington proud.
“We were kids who cared about education and each other,” he said. “But really just about representing the school, the city and our family. Coach Zane Adams used to say, ‘When you’re putting on that Millington shirt you’re representing more than just yourself.’
“When you look like me and everybody knows you, they associate you with being at the top,” Dean concluded. “Somebody is always going to be looking at you, that legacy of never being seen in a bad light.”