Some may see double at college's graduation

Sisters: Four pairs of twins are set to graduate from Villa Julie College in Stevenson today.

May 23, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

The importance of sharing was never lost on the four sets of twins graduating from Villa Julie College today.

Three of the pairs shared the same major and the same classes at the private college in Stevenson. All eight shared living quarters with their sibling for the majority of the four years.

The four sets of twins are made up of two sets of fraternal twins -- Erica Gryctz and Lisa Gryctz, 21, and Kim Schmid and Melissa Schmid, 22 -- and two sets of identical twins -- Kristin Earley and Karen Earley, 21, and Tiffany Hresko and Dana Hresko, 21.

"We had each other from the beginning," said Kristin, who grew up with Karen in Salisbury and lives with her in Owings Mills. "It made the transition easier."

It is unusual for a graduating class to have four sets of twins, particularly at a school with about 300 seniors. But twins are becoming more common. In 1980, when many of the current graduates were born, 18.9 out of every 1,000 births in the United States were twins, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2000, that number had zoomed 55 percent to 29.3 out of every 1,000 births.

But the odds of any twins choosing to go to the same college are difficult to calculate. It is a decision all eight say they made with relative ease.

Mostly, they liked Villa Julie's small classes and the school's location -- close to home, but not too close.

Watching her daughters graduate will be a bittersweet moment for Lynne Gryctz of Forest Hill. She is proud of Erica, an applied math major, and Lisa, an elementary education major, but finds it difficult to believe they are adults.

It was much easier to have her twin daughters in school together, she said, because "I knew they had each other."

Leslie Hresko of Arbutus is also excited for her daughters, Dana and Tiffany, both visual communication design majors who live at home. But she acknowledges there were challenges.

"They don't give you a discount for twins," she said of the school's tuition.

As for the graduates, though they have remained close friends, they have had to deal with competition between them and work to maintain their individuality, she said.

Kim and Melissa Schmid, business information systems majors who bought a house in Towson together last year, remembered drawbacks to having their twin at college.

There were times when a teacher would make a fuss over them on the first day of class. And, when one was sick, the well sister was expected to tell the ill sibling what the assignments were.

Also, "at first people think we're exactly the same," Melissa said. But, she said, when people get to know them, they see that the girls share a lot of interests while having separate personalities.

Along with support and friendship, there are practical benefits to sharing school with a twin.

"It definitely has [helped] having the same major," said Karen Earley, a business information systems major with Kristin. For group projects, they always worked together and shared the workload. Both will continue at Villa Julie for their master's degrees next year.

Erica Gryctz remembers when she and Lisa won a contest at their student housing unit where people were tested on how well they knew their roommates.

All of the twins are busy looking at career opportunities and plan to stay in the area.

This year, for the first time, Villa Julie will split its largest-ever graduating class of about 300 students into two ceremonies based on major.

The administration wanted to meet student requests for more tickets for family members. Two of the twin pairs will graduate at 10 a.m. and two will be part of the 3 p.m. ceremony.

Both events will include an address by Brother Patrick Ellis, director of development for the Mid-Atlantic District Order of Christian Brothers and former president of LaSalle University in Philadelphia and of the Catholic University of America in Washington.

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