Brothers and Sisters
by Robin Blume
They can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They know you better than anyone else and know exactly what buttons to push. Siblings have a special relationship that grows and changes over time. What was once sibling rivalry can become a lasting friendship. College of Agriculture students Bret
and Tera Rooney, Laura and Jackie Klenda, and Mike and Paul Popelka are perfect examples of that friendship. At times they may have their differences, but they all share a common interest in agriculture. Each pair of siblings grew up on a family farm and say their agricultural background contributed to the
strength of their relationships.
Agronomy student Bret Rooney and animal sciences and industry student Tera Rooney grew up near the small town of Satanta on a farming and cow-calf operation and were involved with 4-H. “Showing cattle in 4-H was the main thing we enjoyed doing together,” Bret says. “It’s where we started to grow closer and helped us develop a strong relationship.” Sharing that hobby and working toward a common goal proved to be beneficial. Bret says when they decided to get serious about showing cattle, they spent a lot of time working together. “It made showing a lot more meaningful because both of us had the view that it didn’t matter who won, it was our win,” Tera says. “It was a team thing all the way around, which definitely brought
us closer.” The Popelka family farms approximately 2,000 acres of wheat, corn and soybeans outside of Munden.
They also have a small cow-calf operation and had chickens and sheep when the boys were growing up. Paul, student in bakery science, says he and his twin brother Mike, student in agronomy, spent many hours together when they were younger. From cleaning out the chicken coop to running from the rams, Paul says they always had more fun when they worked together. “It helped us develop our good work ethic and made us appreciate having each other’s company,” he says. The Klenda sisters also spent a lot of time together as they were both active in their high school FFA chapter. They lived on a farm near Tampa and say their agricultural background and involvement in FFA are what influenced them both to
choose agricultural education as a major. “Our ag teachers played a significant role in our lives,” Jackie says. “They made me realize how much they give to the community and we can do the same by giving back.”
The Rooneys, Popelkas and Klendas wanted to attend K-State because they were all attracted to the College of Agriculture. Jackie says K-State was an easy pick, especially since it was the only college in Kansas that has an agricultural education program. But family tradition played a role for the other siblings’ decisions. Bret says he didn’t have any other universities in mind besides K-State. Bret and Tera come from a K-State family. “We have two older sisters who have graduated from K-State, along with both of our parents,” Tera says. “Also, I’m a pre-vet major so that had a big influence on my decision. The College of Agriculture in general is pretty good, so I didn’t see a reason to go anywhere out of state when there is such a good program in state.”
Family tradition played a huge role in twin brothers Mike and Paul Popelka’s decision as well. Their two older brothers and their father not only graduated from K-State, but were also students in the College of Agriculture. “A lot of what we have decided to do stems from our dad,” Paul says.
Mike agrees and adds that their dad was a main influence in his decision to study agronomy. “Growing up, our dad was a seed dealer,” Mike says. “That really interested me in the genetics behind crops, and I knew I wanted to do something with agriculture.”
Once they decided to attend the K-State College of Agriculture together, the Popelka brothers also decided to live with one another. So far, the Popelka twins have lived together their entire lives. They also shared
the same group of friends growing up. In college, they have some mutual friends, but also have friends within their own majors. “We always introduce our friends to each other as well,” Mike says. After graduating high school, they lived in Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity for three years before moving into a house with a few other friends. Summer internships have been the only time the brothers have spent apart.
“The first time I went on an internship, I was sent to North Carolina,” Paul says. “I knew absolutely no one out there and it was the first time I had been separated from Mike for more than a week. I called Mike quite a bit for the first two weeks.”Bret is two years older than Tera, and he attended Butler Community College before transferring to K-State. His first year at K-State was also Tera’s first. Bret says his older sisters lived together when they attended college here, and it influenced him and Tera to live together as well. “It was just easier,” Bret says. “
In dealing with roommates, there’s the trust factor. You know she’s going to be there for bills and if she’s not, you call mom.” When it comes to household chores, each has their own they prefer to do. They agree there aren’t any hard feelings if one were to get mad at the other for not pulling their weight. “If she leaves a mess I can yell at her and tell her to clean it up,” Bret says. “In the end we’re still siblings, so there’s no love lost.” Tera agrees arguing has no effect on their relationship. “We can argue about something,” Tera says. “Then five minutes later we’re over it.” This is also true for Mike and Paul. “Brothers will be brothers,” Paul says.
“We have our fights, but we usually get over it. We like to voice our opinions, but we don’t take it personally.”
Even though the Klenda sisters don’t live together, they make a point to meet once a week to reconnect.“We have a weekly dinner date,” Laura says. “Every Wednesday we go out to eat and catch up on life.” They are also involved in activities at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center and are members of the Agricultural Education Club. Like many siblings in high school, the girls didn’t always get along. But Laura says their relationship has strengthened since coming to college, and Jackie agrees. “We definitely get along despite some differences we have, and we like to challenge each other to be better people,” Jackie says. Throughout college, the girls have continued to have a close sisterhood. “We joke around, we say there’s something called ‘Klenda love,’ or what you would call ‘tough love,’” Jackie says. “We’ll pick on each other, and I guess in a sense it shows our affection.”
All the siblings agree their college experiences wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t have a sibling nearby. Jackie says coming from a 1A School to a large university, it was great to have the support of a sibling.
“The best thing about Laura being here is having a confidant close at hand.”