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Three siblings to graduate from ETSU on same day

Rex Barber • May 4, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Siblings may graduate together all the time, but it is likely not often three siblings graduate on the same day.

That unique occurrence will be the case for Rachel, Rebecca and Ben Engle when they get their bachelor’s degrees from East Tennessee State University Saturday.

“It’s odd it worked out that way,” Rachel said during an interview that included her brother and sister earlier this week.

Rebecca and Ben are twins. Rachel is the oldest by a year. Rebecca and Ben were born in Big Stone Gap, Va. Rachel was born in Raleigh, N.C. The family moved to San Jose, Costa Rica, when the children were 10 and 11 and then to Caracas, Venezuela, where their parents still remain as missionaries.

“We’ve always been a really close family growing up overseas,” Rebecca said.

Rachel got in-state tuition at ETSU, which is why she attended classes there. She enjoyed the school and Rebecca and Ben followed her to the campus when it came time for them to attend college.

The move to Venezuela, a nation on the northern coast of South America, came in 2000. The family first arrived in Caracas, the capital and largest city in the country, in 2000. The country was stable then, but that is not necessarily the case now, Rebecca said. And there were periods when the nation was in upheaval while the Engles lived there. A national strike in 2002 forced the family to stay at home for two months.

“Pretty much all the small businesses went on strike and you couldn’t get bread, milk, meat, so you had to ration,” Ben said.

The Engles said Venezuela is beautiful and rich with culture, though many people live in poverty.

In fact, their parents go into the poorest sections, where people live in small tin shacks placed on the sides of muddy hills, to begin Bible studies. Rebecca said it is not uncommon for those shacks to fall apart in mudslides.

Rebecca will get her degree in nursing Saturday, which was partly inspired by the work she did and things she saw as a missionary in Venezuela.

“It’s always just been something I wanted to do,” Rebecca said. “In seventh grade I took a first-aid class, and loved it.”

Rachel studied English. Ben’s degree is in sports management.

“I’ve always loved reading, and I loved writing,” Rachel said. “It seemed like the right thing for me.”

She may come back for another degree in teaching English as a second language. “Right now I don’t know too much what I want to do with it, but I want to keep writing and hopefully find a job where I can keep writing,” Rachel said.

Ben would like to go back to Venezuela and become an athletic director for a small school.

“Growing up in Caracas I got to play a lot of sports, and a lot of sports I wouldn’t have been able to play had I grown up here, and played with a lot of people I wouldn’t have met here,” he said. “I just want to help give the ability for kids to play.”

The siblings’ parents are coming in for the graduation ceremonies.

“We’ve been very blessed,” Rebecca said. “We like to say we want to settle down but I don’t know if we really want to. We like to travel.”

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