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Two times the talent

Posted: June 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Identical twins Alanna, left, and Gennelle Dedek are heading to Stanford University after graduating from California State University, Los Angeles at the age of 19. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

 

A picture of Alanna and Gennelle Dedek hangs near the bottom of the stairs in their parents’ Canyon Country home. 

In the photo, the identical twins, then about 7 years old, are wearing sparkling, purple dance outfits with marabou collars. Together they won two dance national championships in that attire, followed by a third a few years later.

Whether it was dance, or swimming or cross-stitch, they did it together growing up.

They’ve tried karate together, acted on TV together, and Friday they graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, together at just 19 years old.

“Our parents let us do whatever we wanted (growing up),” Alanna said, “We just always wanted to do the same thing.”

Not in Kansas anymore

The girls’ winning tap-dance number was “Double Trouble” from “The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley,” they say.

The Olsen twins influenced Alanna and Gennelle’s next pursuit as well: At age 7, the girls told their parents they wanted to be actresses like the pair they saw on TV.

Their parents hired an agent and flew the twins to L.A. from their home town of Wichita, Kansas, for auditions.
“When they set their mind to something,” said their mother, Simona, “they’re hard to resist.”

Over the next couple of years, the girls traveled back and forth from Wichita to L.A., trying out for parts and acting in commercials. They landed, most notably, cameos on ABC’s “8 Simple Rules” and “Boston Legal.”

What kind of parts did they play? “Twin roles,” they answer in unison.

Around 2003, the family moved to Southern California to lessen the audition-centered travel load. Over time, however, the girls stopped auditioning as academics began to take center stage. And ironically, the cross-country move positioned them perfectly for success in the classroom.

Academic stars

The twins attended public elementary school in the Santa Clarita Valley through fifth grade, but then switched to independent studies, which accelerated their learning.

Both girls completed seventh and eighth grades in less than a year, scored around a 2200 on the SAT, and skipped most of high school.

At age 15, they enrolled at Cal State L.A., one of only 12 colleges across the country that offer an Early Entrance Program, allowing students as young as 11 years old to register.

The school didn’t, however, offer architecture as a major, which both girls wanted to study as long as they can remember. They majored in civil engineering.

After a few engineering classes, “I said, ‘This is what I was supposed to be,’” Alanna said. “But I accidently fell into (it).”

The young Canyon Country women say they weren’t intimidated at being younger than most other students on campus; their grades certainly showed they belonged. Both graduated with grade point averages over 3.9.
“They are going to build things (one day); they’re going to build a staircase to the moon,” said Richard Maddox, director of the university’s Early Entrance Program.

Look-alikes

The twins, who took identical class schedules at CSULA, can be hard to differentiate.

“We thought one professor could tell us apart,” Gennelle said, “until he couldn’t. He was guessing.”

Gennelle and Alanna carpooled to school (a two-hour round trip from Canyon Country to Cal State L.A. and back) at least four days a week, switching drivers every other day. Disagreements could arise over whose turn it was to drive.

“We’ll fight for a day and then get over it. We have to. We’re stuck together,” said Gennelle of the duo’s relationship.

Whoever drove also controlled the radio, which wasn’t a problem because they like basically the same music (country lately). In fact, they enjoy many of the same things. Baking is one, coffee another.

Parting Ways

So the question becomes, with such similar schedules, talents and hobbies, what sets one sister apart from the other?

Alanna takes a deep breath and pauses before answering.

“Gennelle is more dramatic,” she says.

“Really?” Gennelle responds, laughing.

But jesting aside, the young women do have differing strengths.

This year, they co-captained their school’s American Society of Civil Engineers Steel Bridge team, assembling a 20-foot bridge that held 1,500 pounds in a timed competition.

The project played to both of their strengths: Gennelle designs; Alanna organizes and mobilizes.

These inclinations are also, in part, why they’re separating this fall for essentially the first time.

Both girls are headed to Stanford in September for graduate studies, but Alanna will study sustainable design and construction; Gennelle will study structural engineering.

No more living together. No more car rides. No more constant interaction.

After five years of driving two hours together, less contact has been “a long time coming,” they say.

“There are things only we find funny (though),” said Alanna of her sister. “If I find something funny, I’ll probably (still) call her.”

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