(The Root) — Spelman College's 2013 co-valedictorians, Kirstie and Kristie Bronner, come from a long line of success as part of America's prominent family of hair-care entrepreneurs. Their father, Bishop Dale Bronner, is the pastor at one of the largest churches in Atlanta, and both their mother and grandmother preceded them as graduates of the prestigious college for women.
But for the identical twins with an identical grade point average of 4.0, it has been the prayers and not the pressure of family that has propelled them through four years of success.
"Our parents helped build the foundation. We never felt pressure because of the family name," said Kristie. "We just have this intrinsic motivation to please God. We want to represent God in the best way we can."
Kirstie recalls her mother's words as she drove them to elementary school.
"My mother used to tell us, 'You are the head and not the tail.' And she would say, 'You are first and not last.' She would always tell us, 'Do your best and trust God to do the rest,' " Kirstie said.
As they matriculated through four years of study toward bachelor's degrees in music at the liberal arts college in Atlanta, prayer was just as much a part of their college life as class work, the twins said.
"Some students only pray when they are about to take a test. We prayed before we studied for tests and as we studied each day, asking God to help us retain the information," Kristie said.
The sisters plan to work in music ministry on the staff at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral, the church led by their father. The sisters, both sopranos, also plan to record a contemporary gospel CD and write a book.
"All of our goals are connected to ministry," Kristie said. The book, she said, will answer questions for teens, young adults and their families. "We want to teach other students the wisdom God has given us along the way," Kirstie said.
Through Spelman, the twins said they had an opportunity to learn at home and abroad.
They spent the spring semester of their junior year studying in Milan as part of the Institute for the International Education of Students. The semester was the first time since birth that Kirstie and Kristin did not live together or take classes together.
"I was nervous about being in different classes. We had not been in different classes since elementary school," Kristie said. "We like being together, but we can be confident and independent on our own."
Because of the requirements of the international study program, students from the same college could not live together, Kirstie said. The Bronners spent most of their time together on the weekends, which they often used to travel through Europe to take in the cultures of such places as Paris, Barcelona and Ireland.
"We would find the cheapest flights or trains, get a map and travel," Kirstie said. "This was one of the most memorable experiences because it broadened our horizon and allowed us to be immersed in a different culture. Americans live to work. Italians work to live. They place emphasis on family and relationships."
At Spelman, the Bronners participated in several activities, including the Spelman College Glee Club. Kirstie is a section leader and student conductor, and Kristie is a section leader and chaplain.
One of the greatest challenges for the sisters was learning to balance their lives. "We had to learn to study during the week and get our work done so that we could do other things or rest on the weekends," Kirstie said.
Most days, Kirstie and Kristie dress alike because they want to. They live in an apartment about 10 minutes from campus, and they share a car.
While some twins have tension between them because of competition, Kirstie said that hasn't been an issue for her and her sister. "We both have our own identities. Those who know us well can distinguish between us," Kirstie said.
The twins have advice for students who want to be successful in college. "Work like it's all up to you, and pray like it's all up to God," said Kristie.
Kirstie stresses balance in life. "You don't have to work the whole weekend to keep a 4.0. It just takes time management, prayer and diligence," Kirstie said. "It's not about just being the smartest. When you work harder than a lot of other people and you pray harder, you get results."
Spelman College's 126th commencement will be Sunday, May 19, at 3 p.m. at Georgia International Convention Center. The baccalaureate will be Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m. at Spelman.
Denise Stewart is a freelance writer in Alabama.