(This story was updated on Feb. 13, 2020)
For many college-bound seniors, worries about paying tuition can temper the joy of being accepted. For the Povolo quintuplets of Totowa, New Jersey, those concerns were multiplied by five.
But that anxiety lifted when they accepted Montclair State University’s offer of five Presidential Scholarships for high-achieving students – one for each sibling, Victoria, Masha, Ashley, Michael and Marcus. The offer also included need-based grants and small merit scholarships that amounted to a tuition-free four years for the family.
“Thank you, Montclair State, for allowing us this amazing opportunity and this special blessing,” said Victoria Povolo, the oldest of the quintuplets, who had been the one to first explore financial aid with the University.
Victoria’s siblings and parents learned of the offer in a surprise reveal at Passaic Valley High School on Monday, Feb. 3, which had been orchestrated by Montclair State Undergraduate Admissions and Passaic Valley High School counselor, Diana L. Pasquariello.
Because they are all high-achieving students, they met the criteria for the University’s Presidential Scholars Program, which rewards accomplished New Jersey students with a $5,000-a-year scholarship and additional academic, research-driven and career-focused activities, as long as they maintain the required grade point averages for all four years.
The ruse for the reveal was that the quints and their unsuspecting parents were scheduled to meet with guidance staff “to explore ways to pay for college.” When they arrived, they were greeted by the University’s mascot Rocky with balloons and a giant replica check made payable for five higher educations.
The proud parents were visibly moved and relieved, as the cost of college had been a concern since their children were born.
“We worried about that a lot,” recalled Paolo Povolo. “We wondered, will we have to refinance the house? How much aid can we get? The last several months while they were applying to college have been so stressful.”
Tears flowed with word of the scholarships and the financial assistance, which, times five, could be valued in excess of $250,000 over four years.
“Your world can change in a moment,” Silvia Povolo said, stunned.
The quintuplets, first-generation Americans and the first generation to attend college, have been making news since the day they were born on the Fourth of July, 2002. A local newspaper dubbed them “Five Little Firecrackers” on their first birthday. When they turned 7, they shared their thoughts about the Independence Day displays. “We know they’re not for us, but we like them anyway.”
They each had choices when it came to colleges. But, in the end, they wanted to stay together.
“They were looking at different colleges, but there’s a bond that I can’t explain that is there,” their mother said. “So even though they have their own lives, at the end of the day, everybody comes home.”
Montclair State also offers a variety of programs that fit the quints’ needs. Victoria wants to be a forensic pathologist. Masha will study political science and plans to be a lawyer. Ashley dreams of teaching. Michael will study nutrition and food science. Marcus wants to be an accountant.
“Montclair State is the ideal option for us,” Victoria said.
As Presidential Scholars, the financial rewards go hand-in-hand with meaningful academic experiences, including access to alumni mentors and internships, spring break community service, lectures and research opportunities.
“The Povolos are exactly the type of students we had in mind when the University began offering this generous financial support to New Jersey’s most ambitious and determined students,” said Jeff Gant, director of Undergraduate Admissions.
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren