When Bill Medl, the Chair of the Connestee Falls Student Scholarship Program, received three thank you notes bearing the same surname and return address on the envelopes, he thought there must have been some error. Upon reading the notes, however, he realized that instead of having received multiple notes from one person who had mistakenly sent all three to him, he had heard from three people in the same family.
Tracy Pace is studying early childhood education at Blue Ridge Community College. Her twin daughters, Elizabeth and Caroline, graduated from Brevard High School this year and just started their first year at Blue Ridge. They are studying pre-calculus and chemistry and will transfer to North Carolina State in January. All three received Connestee Falls scholarships this year. It is Tracy's third Connestee scholarship.
Tracy has been married for 35 years to her husband, Mark, and, in addition to the twins, they have two older children. Their oldest, son Matt, 28, is married and lives in Raleigh. He is a graduate of N.C. State and works for Altech as a quality engineer. The next child is a daughter, Katelynne, 26, who is a U.S. Army Airborne Combat Medic. Katelynne just returned from Afghanistan and is stationed in Alaska.
Tracy and Mark have one paramount rule in their household: all four of their children must obtain a college degree. The only exception has been Katelynne, who left college to join the Army.
Their rule emanated from Tracy's and Mark's experiences as the children of parents who did not finish high school, and from their own experiences of entering the job market without college diplomas. While both registered for college after high school, neither pursued a degree. Instead they got married, and when they started their family, they decided they wanted more for their children. Over time, they also decided they wanted more for themselves.
Tracy began taking college courses in 1998, but she stopped when the twins were born in 2000. After spending two years as a stay-at-home mom, she began working part-time in child care in 2002 when Ecusta closed and Mark lost his job. Her position in child care ended in 2017, and she promptly returned to school. Tracy will complete her associate's degree in early childhood education in the summer of 2019. While she would love to obtain her bachelor's degree in the same field, whether she will be able to do that will be contingent upon the twins' pursuit of their college degrees, as their education is her first priority. While completing her course work, she also works full-time at Nana's and Momma's Child Care Center where she is the executive assistant.
Mark has attended Blue Ridge Community College as well. He has an associate's degree in heating and air conditioning, which he obtained after Ecusta closed. He now works at Thermal Fisher Scientific as an electrician.
Elizabeth, the older twin by four minutes, describes her twin sister Caroline as her best friend, and Caroline is quick to reciprocate. The two will room together at N.C. State, and both will major in engineering.
Both were involved in sports in high school and were members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They are very involved in their church. Both also belonged to FFA, took horticulture courses and taught elementary school children about horticulture. Over the summer the two worked as nannies for a 4-year-old boy.
They are not really carbon copies, however. Elizabeth describes herself as "a people person," while Caroline says she is a planner who "reads the manuals." Elizabeth wants to come back to Brevardafter college and envisions having a job where she interacts with people, especially children; Caroline is not sure where she wants to live or exactly what kind of work she wants to do. Caroline was a soccer player at Brevard High School and received an athletic scholarship as a result. Elizabeth played volleyball and softball.
Asked what message they would want to convey to the donors and volunteers of the Connestee Falls Scholarship Program, each of the Paces had a different message.
Caroline said, "The scholarship is helping me pursue different paths so I can decide what I want to do." Elizabeth pointed out that "buying two sets of books is not easy."
Tracy said, "Without the scholarships, the twins would have to have worked during college, and I wouldn't be in college because the twins' education comes first."
Obviously, the Pace family has taken to heart Ben Franklin's wise advice: "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."