For them, "respect, trust and communication" are the keys that kept them together through separate schools and beyond.
Today, they're happily married, living in California, and their daughters are 6, 4 and 2.
"We didn't do everything together," said Stephanie.
Of all college relationships, nearly 33 percent are long-distance, according to an i Village survey. If you're out of college, think about your Facebook friends: How many are still together with — or even married to — their high school sweethearts?
"It's definitely possible, but it's rare, because the chances of you knowing who you want to be with at 40 when you're 17 are kind of low," said Tracey Steinberg, a dating coach. And it's worth the wait if it's real." Going the (long) distance is not easy: Challenges including overcoming communication barriers, resisting the temptation of a fun, new social life and scraping together the finances to visit each other at separate schools. But the next time you grumble about a spotty Skype connection or a pricey plane ticket, think about Barbara Gee and Gordon Baranco.
The pair got together at age 16, despite the misgivings of their parents (Barbara is Chinese-American, and Gordon is African-American), who threatened to disown them.
They chose separate schools — she went to UC Berkeley, and he went to UC Davis.
They broke up a bit, dated other people at the suggestion of their parents, but stayed in close touch.
"We were only about 100 miles apart, so we were able to see each other on weekends and over the summers, but what happened was because there was so much against us in the beginning, we did try to date other people, and split up," Gee said."Our parents insisted that we make sure that we looked at other people, to make sure this relationship would be a strong one.But we always remained best friends." Fifty years after high school graduation and two children later, Gee is confident it was meant to be."We could always talk to each other, and laugh at each other's jokes, laugh at each other's idiosyncrasies.I could tell him anything, he could tell me anything.It was an unconditional acceptance." Stephanie and Jon Mandle went on their their first date at a Mc Donald's right down the street from high school in Lexington, Massachusetts, where they met in 1996.