It takes two – IND’s co-valedictorians share special bond

By Elizabeth Lowe
elowe@CatholicReview.org

Twitter: @ReviewLowe
COLUMBIA – Amy and Becky Gessler have a knack for finishing each other’s sentences.
It is fitting that the 17-year-old identical twins, co-valedictorians who graduated June 2 from the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore, co-wrote and co-delivered their valedictorian speech.   
“I always thought Becky would be the valedictorian and I would be salutatorian,” Amy said. “It was a surprise.”
“I was working toward it,” Becky said humbly.
The next challenge these co-eds face is college this fall.
Amy will attend Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., where she plans to major in physical therapy. Becky will attend the University of Delaware in Newark, Del., where she plans to major in engineering or computer science. Both were accepted into the honors program at their respective institutions.
“It (college) is going to be hard and scary,” Becky said. “I’m used to having her (Amy) there.”
“Being away from Becky is going to be difficult,” said Amy, who added she is excited for “a new beginning. I’m looking forward to being an individual. People don’t know we are twins.”
The easy part will be staying connected.
The Gesslers plan to Skype and talk on the phone once they leave the shared room at their Ellicott City home in August.  
And if all else fails, they are only an hour-and-a-half drive apart (Amy already Googled).
Watch the short video below to hear the sisters’ thoughts on being co-valedictorians:

At IND, Amy and Becky were National and Spanish National honor society members and enrolled in the school’s honors program, Theresian Scholars.
In addition, they were two of 60 seniors – three from each of the 20 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese – honored by the Department of Catholic Schools at the 21st Distinctive Scholars Convocation in April.
“They were so very bright, but it wasn’t something they showed off,” said Diana Franz, IND’s assistant principal. “They were always willing to help other students. In today’s world, that’s something to be proud of, to see young women act like that.”
Outside the classroom, Amy and Becky ran varsity cross country and track and field all four years. They volunteered with one of IND’s service organizations, Hildie’s Helpers.
Before IND, Amy and Becky attended Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City, the parish school of their church, Church of the Resurrection.
“I got the feeling helping others was a big deal,” Amy said of a lesson she learned early on in Catholic school.
“It goes back to service,” Becky said.
Service to Catholic schools is a hallmark of the twins’ family, whose connection to IND spans several decades.  
Their great-aunt, School Sister of Notre Dame Louis Marie Koesters, was IND’s principal from 1966 to 1977, according to IND. She is credited with keeping the East Baltimore school from relocating outside the city limits.  
Their father, Bobby, is a urologist and a coach for IND’s cross country and track and field teams. 
Their mother, Peggy, is a pediatrician and IND’s science department chairwoman who started the school’s Project Lead the Way biomedical sciences program.
Their two older sisters are also IND alumnae; one was her class salutatorian.
“I expected more from them (in class),” said Peggy, who taught her four daughters. “It (Amy and Becky as co-valedictorians) was the icing on the cake.”
The text of the graduation speech follows:
2013 Valedictorians’ Speech: The Road that Lies Ahead
At the June 2 graduation held at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, twin valedictorians Amy and Becky Gessler shared their thoughts on their years spent at IND and the road that lies ahead.

Amy: Good evening, faculty, staff, administration, family, friends and the Class of 2013. We are here to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2013 and to celebrate the experiences we have shared as a class over the past four years.

Amy: I have a notebook called a five-year journal where each day has a question and I answer the questions over a five-year period to see how I’ve changed. A recent question was “If you could go back in time, what would you change?”

I racked my brain for a response and I realized therein lay my answer. I didn’t want to change anything. Sure, there were a few embarrassing incidents that I would rather had not happened but overall, I didn’t want anything to be different. I am me because of my experiences just as you are you because of your experiences, and no one can take that away from you.

Realize that you have a long journey ahead of you and if you become discouraged, stop and think about how far you have come.

Becky: While pondering an experience that could apply to everyone’s lives, we thought of the time we went white-water rafting one summer. We were fearful about falling into the rapids, and our fears were not placated by the speech given by the guide. His basic message was this: the more scared you are of falling in, the more likely it will happen.

Relating this to the years that lie before us, the more scared you are of taking risks, the more likely you will miss opportunities. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone because it leads to new and unexpected experiences.

This past spring, during Easter break, Amy and I traveled on a school-sponsored trip to Vienna, Austria. Although we were nervous about immersing ourselves in a new environment and stepping out of our comfort zones, we quickly came to the realization that this experience was a tremendous opportunity.

Through meeting students at SSND sister schools in Vienna and Budapest, we recognized that although we were separated by an ocean, our worlds were not so different. The technology today allows us to stay in touch with each other despite the distance.

We encourage you to take advantage of this interconnectedness to communicate with each other. If the emotions at the Marian Prayer Service were any indication, we will keep in touch long after our graduation. We have become sisters who are willing to help each other, similar to the guide in the rafting boat.

There were two instances where I started to fall in. Each time, however, I felt the reassurance of the guide as he pushed me back to the safety of the raft. Look around you at your friends and family, for they will be the ones to support you and keep you from falling in or pull you out if you do happen to fall in. But let’s be honest, sometimes falling in is the best part.

Amy: We never have to go far for advice. A mural painted on Harford Road that we passed daily on our way to cross country and track practice offered a point of reflection. It stated “No matter how far the stream flows, it never forgets its source.” Take time to thank your source: your family and friends who give you never-ending love and support. Our hope is that IND has become part of that source. Inspired by reading senior messages in the yearbook, we believe that many seniors include their time at IND as years that shaped them into the young women they are today.

Becky: One last lesson white-water rafting taught us was to work together and to challenge ourselves. As an added challenge, we paddled into the rapids against the current. This took extra energy and teamwork in order to avoid capsizing.

Do not be afraid to work hard and to ask for help if you need it. We wish you the best in your future endeavors and want to leave you with this last thought: the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

To check out all of our 2013 graduation profiles, click here. 

To read more articles on Catholic education, click here
Copyright (c) June 21, 2013 CatholicReview.org

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