After making history two years ago as the first twin co-valedictorians at Spelman College, Kirstie and Kristie Bronner continue to break new ground as they build careers as youth pastors at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral in Austell, Ga. Located in the outskirts of Atlanta, the church is pastored by their father, Bishop Dale Bronner, and one of the largest in the metro area.
“We strongly believe in faith and work,” Kirstie Bronner tells The Root. “None of us is perfect, so achievement and success come as a product of faith and work.”
After graduating from college, the identical twins published a self-help book with the aim of inspiring other young people. Double Vals: The Keys to Success in College and Life Beyond serves as a resource for high school and college students on how to strive for success through faith, discipline and hard work. The 175-page guide also provides tips about studying, scheduling, living a balanced life and committing to excellence.
The Bronner twins, each of whom maintained a 4.0 grade point average, come from a long line of success seekers. Members of their family own Bronner Bros., a hair and beauty supply company. They intend to carve out their own path to success, focusing on the spiritual side of things and not straying far from the church in their work and deeds, they say.
“God is a huge part of our lives,” Kirstie says. “When we were focused on academics in college, we never lost our foundation in Christ, slept in on a Sunday or used it as an extra Saturday.”
Intent on forging careers in ministry, they became youth pastors at Word of Faith after serving as youth event coordinators, planning conferences, monthly worship and social events, and retreats for their contemporaries with the help of volunteers they recruited.
Today the young women, who majored in music, are also directors in the church’s music department. They lead the Ignite Youth Praise Team, teach the 150-voice Ignite Youth Choir and oversee the Ignite Youth Band (performing a mix of contemporary Christian and gospel music).
They joined the glee club at Spelman freshman year and had scored leadership roles by their senior year.
Initially they had planned to release a music CD after graduation but then decided to focus on their book first.
These days the sisters tour the country delivering their message of inspiration. While they have no official ties to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, Kirstie Bronner says their message is in sync with the movement, whose focus is to halt police brutality against black Americans.
“We tackle the root of the issues,” Kirstie says. “With racism there is always a hatred that lies up under it and so does low self-esteem. You would not feel the need to put someone else down if you weren’t trying to lift yourself up in the process.”
She continues, "A tinge of self-hatred … comes along with racist issues out there. We urge people to stay spiritually rooted.”
Their hard-core spirituality, dedication and discipline enabled them to become co-valedictorians at Spelman. As third-generation Spelman graduates, they are following in the footsteps of their mother, Nina Cobb Bronner, who was part of the Class of 1985, and grandmother, Dorothy Gibson Cobb, in the Class of 1956.
“We’ve always been very passionate about doing our best,” Kirstie Bronner says. “Our parents drilled in us to be the best that we can be.” They were always “encouraging us to trust God to do the rest.”
The twins’ first instance of spending time apart came their junior year, while they studied music in Milan. Their program, arranged through the Institute for the International Education of Students, did not allow students from the same school to be roommates.
“It was the first time we had to travel to get to one another,” Kristie says. “That’s when we learned our love for each other. I was like, ‘Wow, we really like each other and it’s not just because we’re twins.’” Other than the fact that they had to stay apart, she considers their Italian sojourn to have been a great experience.
Today the Bronner twins live together in an Atlanta suburb. They are so close, they like the same clothes, books and movies, Kristie says.
But come September, the two will likely experience a bit of separation anxiety. That’s when Kirstie plans to tie the knot with her childhood sweetheart, Kyle Foley, 27, a U.S. Air Force pilot. The couple became engaged in February.
“Marriage is the one thing we can’t do together—unless we have a double wedding,” jokes Kristie, who broke up with her longtime boyfriend about a year and a half ago. “And that’s not happening as of now.” She says what happens next fall will be an “adjustment,” adding “but it’s another season.”
Also part of The Root’s series on valedictorians:
Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor at The Root. The New York-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor at Ebony magazine.