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Preschool Sweethearts Match on Dating Website 30 Years Later: 'It Was Meant to Be'

Pre-K Sweethearts Meet Again Three Decades Later
Amy and Justin in Pre-K and Amy and Justin now
Courtesy Amy Giberson

11/05/2015 AT 03:00 PM EST

When they were 3 years old, Amy Giberson and Justin Pounders shared a "shy" romance at Sunshine Preschool in St. Petersburg, Florida – they built blocks together, sat next to each other during lunchtime and played tag on the playground.

But like many first loves, their time together was fleeting. They grew up, went to different schools and eventually forgot about each other.

That is until 30 years later, when Giberson, 33, and Pounders, 33, were paired on Match.com, an online dating website. And after a year of dating, the couple realized they had once been childhood sweethearts in their hometown of St. Petersburg.

Love At First Sight
Although it's been three decades since Giberson and Pounders left Sunshine Preschool, former owner and teacher Diane Twar clearly remembers their fondness for one another.

"They had a blast with each other," Twar tells PEOPLE. "It was a quiet, bashful romance. They liked each other from afar, it was a young love, like a sweet crush, you know? They insisted on sitting next to each other in our school picture."

Giberson and Pounders graduated from pre-K and went to different elementary, middle and high schools – with memories of that first crush eventually fading away.

Preschool Sweethearts Match on Dating Website 30 Years Later: 'It Was Meant to Be'| True Love, Real People Stories

Amy and Justin

Courtesy Amy Giberson

Pounders went on to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee and Giberson went to University of South Florida in Tampa.

But at the age of 32, both found themselves back in St. Petersburg – single and looking for love.

A Modern Love Story
Even though he didn’t recognize his old flame, Pounders messaged Giberson the moment he came across her picture last November on the dating website.

"I saw her photo and for whatever reason, was instantly drawn to her," he tells PEOPLE. "She just had this great energy, you could tell. I can't explain it, but I knew I had to get to know this girl."

The two started texting and calling each other every night – unaware that they already knew each other – and planned their first date at a local restaurant.

"Of course, at that point, we still didn't know we had been pre-K sweethearts, but when we met up and we hugged, it was like I had known him my whole life," Giberson tells PEOPLE. "When I first saw him, I felt that I was staring at the man I was going to marry."

The two saw each other every day after that and they instantly fell in love.

Remembering the Past
It wasn't until two weeks ago – almost exactly a year after their first date – that the couple found out they had known each other as kids.

Giberson says the two grew up in the same area but had no mutual friends, and they didn’t think they had ever run into one another.

"We were in the car and Justin casually mentioned that he loved my name because he had had a crush on a girl named Amy in his preschool," she says. "Then I joked to him, 'Well, it's not me, so I don’t want to hear about her!' "

Preschool Sweethearts Match on Dating Website 30 Years Later: 'It Was Meant to Be'| True Love, Real People Stories

Amy and Justin on vacation

Courtesy Amy Giberson

But when they made the connection that they had both attended Sunshine Preschool at the exact same time, Giberson realized Justin's crush might have actually been her.

"We asked our parents to dig up any preschool photos they had," she says. "Justin's mom found a photo of the two of us together and I just started crying, I was ecstatic. I was the Amy he had liked all those years ago! It was definitely meant to be."

A Forever Crush
The couple cites a "higher power" as the reason for their love coming full circle.

"Someone or something definitely decided we weren't supposed to reconnect until now," says Pounders. "We've been so close to finding each other this whole time but didn't until the time was right. And that's now."

Preschool Sweethearts Match on Dating Website 30 Years Later: 'It Was Meant to Be'| True Love, Real People Stories

Justin and Amy at a baseball game

Courtesy Amy Giberson

Although Pounders is still waiting for the perfect time to pop the question, the couple has already picked out a wedding date and a honeymoon spot.

"We're doing everything backwards, but we don't care. We're best friends in love," says Giberson. "And apparently we always have been."

"It was meant to be," Pounders agrees.
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