by Stephen J. Zubrycky, Managing Editor
When Kelly Kret was looking at colleges in 2015 and 2016, she knew what she wanted. She wanted to do engineering. She didn’t want to stray too far from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. And she wanted a Catholic college.
“Manhattan had everything on that list,” she said.
One year later, when her sister Mary Kret was looking at colleges, Manhattan College once again just made sense.
Mary was going to graduate from high school early. The Kret family unit was moving from Chappaqua to Tuckahoe, N.Y., and rather than switch high schools, Mary doubled up her senior year and got her diploma in three years.
When she arrived on campus last year, she was only 16 years old.
Mary is now 17, and will be turning on 18 on Dec. 17, well into her sophomore year of an exercise science major. Kelly, 20, is a junior studying mechanical engineering.
The sisters are the brains behind the upcoming event, “Extra Special Prom,” scheduled for the evening of Feb. 8 in Smith Auditorium. The event, sponsored by Campus Ministry & Social Action (CMSA), will bring special needs people to campus for a dance with MC students.
Kelly and Mary have both participated in a similar event in Midtown Manhattan.
“We both went as buddies about two years ago… in Times Square at a church,” Kelly said. At that
event, the guests were paired with buddies, many of whom who were much older. But Kelly thinks that having college students act as buddies will make the event more fun and more special for its guests.
“It’ll be really nice to have college age and special needs [people],” Kelly said. “They’re our age. It’s going to be more fun.”
Though the event is still in the early planning phases, it has seen success thus far. More than 200 students have already signed up to volunteer.
For the Krets, Extra Special Prom is more than a brainchild. It’s a passion project.
“I have a cousin with Down syndrome,” Mary said. “She’s like a twin basically.”
The event is not just about showing its guests a good time. The sisters are hoping to help bridge the gap between special needs people and non-special needs people.
“You just need to treat them like a normal person. They’re really not that different from you,” Mary said. “[Many people] don’t see it very often and we grew up with it so it’s nothing new for us,” Mary said.
The sisters’ passion for service goes hand-in-hand with their family’s deep Catholic faith.
“You don’t have a conversation at home that doesn’t involve God in some way,” Kelly said.
“If ever we’re stressed, my mom’s like, ‘Well God has a plan,” Mary said.
Kelly and Mary make up one half of the Kret children. John, 26, is their older brother, and they have a younger sister Julia who is 12 years old.
After the birth of their son John, Kelly and Mary’s parents thought they would not be able to have more children… until Kelly came around in 1998. They chose middle name Rose for her because of St. Therese of Lisieux, who is commonly known as “The Saint of the Little Flower.”
“St. Therese is the saint of the little flower and the little flower is the rose. So if you pray to her… she shows you a rose… Kelly was [my mother’s] rose,” Mary said.
For Mary, the homage was more direct. They chose the middle name Therese.
The sisters Kret are involved in many places across campus. Kelly is part the Society of Women Engineers, Love Your Melon and CMSA. Mary is soon to be inducted into Phi Epsilon Kappa, the honor society for physical education and health. And you can find both sisters in the pews in the Chapel of De La Salle and His Brothers every Sunday for mass.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Mary wants to pursue a career working in occupational therapy working with people with special needs. Her plan involves a master’s degree and ultimately a doctorate.
“It’s a lot of schooling. But I feel like it’s worth it in the end because it’s a job I want to do,” Mary said. “I know I’m going to like it.”
Kelly intends to finish her mechanical engineering degree at MC and pursue a career in prosthetics.
“I want to work in a field that’s like person-to-person a little bit,” Kelly said. “I’d like to be in between the problem solving and the people, and I think the medical industry kind of combines that a bit.”
But the Krets are not just looking for jobs. They’re not just looking for careers or professions. They’re answering a call.
“I want a job that gives meaning, purpose,” Kelly said. “I think you’re put on this plane to give yourself.”
And that’s what the Krets intend to do.