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N.J. Quintuplets Make History as They Graduate from ϲʹֱ

Graduate Spotlight Times Five: The Povolo quints follow their own paths yet all earn their degrees in four years

Posted in: Business, Education, Homepage News, Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Technology, University

The Povolo quintuplets in graduation gowns stand in front of a large Red Hawk statue.

Update: Since ϲ shared their story on May 6, 2024 the Povolos’ achievements have been shared by media outlets throughout the country. Read more about them in and and watch them on , and

Being a quintuplet is exceptionally rare. Rarer still is all five attending the same college and graduating on the same day. But that’s what the Povolo quintuplets – Victoria, Ludovico, Ashley, Michael and Marcus – have accomplished at ϲʹֱ. On Monday, May 13, they will make history at the University’s Commencement when they walk across the platform to receive their degrees one after the other.

The milestone at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, is believed to be the first time quints have simultaneously graduated from a New Jersey higher ed institution, with the Povolos joining just a handful of other multiple siblings in the nation who celebrated their “quintessential” college experience by graduating from the same college in the same academic year.

From ϲ, the Povolos will earn degrees in five different majors:

  • Victoria Povolo, Biochemistry; minor Italian
  • Ludovico Povolo, Political Science, minor Pre-Law, Business
  • Ashley Povolo, English, Teacher Education Program, certification in P-12
  • Michael Povolo, Nutrition and Food Science, concentration Dietetics
  • Marcus Povolo, Business Administration, concentration International Business

“ϲ helped us be together, but also helped us to become our own people, with our own majors, our own interests, our own friend groups,” Victoria says. “We customized our own paths, but we got to the finish line together.”

The siblings credit their parents, Paolo Povolo, a building engineer for Cushman & Wakefield, and Silvia Povolo, assistant housekeeping supervisor for the University, for encouraging them to follow their dreams and instilling both a strong work ethic and the importance of education.

“The support that they have for us, obviously, there’s a reason why we made it this far,” Victoria says. “Our parents always encourage us to do our best, and the best doesn’t look the same for everyone, which I think is also something we learned growing up and explains why we’re all doing different things.”

The Povolo quintuplets pose before a white building
As graduation nears, the Povolos, from left, Ludovico, Victoria, Michael, Ashley and Marcus, say Commencement is likely the last “big thing” they will experience at the same time.

Marcus Povolo has landed a job with the financial giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. He’s the only sibling to live on campus, a move he made so that he could easily access the campus train station to commute to Jersey City for work and have a quiet place to study. To stay on track to graduate in four years, he took courses during the summer and winter breaks, asynchronous classes and expedited classes.

“This definitely wasn’t easy, managing full-time school and work,” Marcus says. “There were times where I figured doing one would be a lot easier. I just had to push myself through.”

Victoria plans to take a year off to work and save money for medical school to study forensic medicine. She’s held several undergraduate research positions in , opportunities she shared in the Amazon-series The College Tour. She’s currently researching personality disorders and interning in a morgue.

Michael Povolo, a student athlete, will continue at ϲ next fall to complete a 4+1 program, meaning after five years he will have earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nutrition. He’s a defensive midfielder on the Red Hawks lacrosse team, interns at an assisted living community, and coaches youth lacrosse.

Ludovico Povolo, a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, is known by his college friends and at the restaurant where he works by his nickname, Vico. Before college he went by his middle name, Masha. His academic interests have also seen changes. While he once saw himself headed to a career in law, a professor pointed out that with his gregarious nature he might want to consider business. He found it a better fit with his evolving interests. He’ll shortly begin work as a sales and marketing representative for Techtronic Industries in northern New Jersey.

Ashley Povolo, a future teacher, is completing her clinical experience as a high school advanced placement English teacher. She works as a University Fellow and studied abroad in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, which she says took her outside the comfort zone of being part of a big family as she navigated the experience on her own. Ashley wrote a poem about how their birth order (Victoria, the oldest, Vico, Ashley, Michael and Marcus, the youngest by minutes) has shaped their lives.

“They’re my best friends,” Ashley says. “We’ve grown up together and literally know everything about each other. So it did hit me the other day that graduation is the last big thing that I’m going to experience with them at the same time.”

The siblings frequently meet on campus for coffee and meals, and share rides to and from school. “I do need that closeness and seeing them all the time and being around them all the time,” Victoria says. “It completes what I need, and the others for sure think the same. We always regroup, no matter how far we’ve been, no matter where we’ve gone, we always come back and regroup.”

The Povolo quintuplets when they were toddlers
The Povolo quintuplets: Being a quintuplet is exceptionally rare – the chances are roughly 1 in 60 million. (Photo courtesy of the family)

The Povolo quintuplets captured the public’s attention when they were born on the Fourth of July, 2002, and dubbed by a local newspaper “Five Little Firecrackers” on their first birthday.

As they’ve grown, the siblings, now 21, say they’ve enjoyed the curiosity that comes with the rarity of being a quint.

“Personally, I love the attention,” says Vico. “I love talking about it. It’s unique and refreshing.”

College graduation promises to put them in the spotlight again. The University, which will hold two Commencements for students based on their college or school, has made accommodations so the Povolos can receive their diplomas together at the morning ceremony on May 13.

“We’ll need a tissue box for my mom,” Michael says. “She’s definitely going to cry.”

The Povolo quintuplets wearing ϲʹֱ sweatshirts jump together in front of a high school building.
As high school seniors, the Povolo quints celebrated ϲ’s scholarship offer outside Passaic Valley High School. A few months later, their high school graduation was a quiet event, coming at the height of COVID-19 and pandemic restrictions.
The Povolo quintuplets wearing graduation gowns jump together in front of stone steps outdoors.
Four years later, the siblings reenact the scene while taking photos on campus. On May 13, they’ll be among ϲ’s Spring 2024 Class of 3,648 graduates at Commencement at Prudential Center, Newark.

Graduation for five, let alone college for five wasn’t a given for the Povolo quintuplets. “I remember our senior year [at Passaic Valley High School],” says Michael. “We were sitting down and asking, ‘What are we going to do for school?’ We talked about community college, jobs and training programs. Each of us wanted very different things in terms of majors. But the one thing we shared was applying to ϲ.”

The University was close enough to their home in Totowa, New Jersey, that the money they saved by commuting might just make college accessible. All five were accepted and Victoria reached out to the University’s financial aid office to ask about scholarships or loans they might qualify for.

“I was very aware of the financial situation of my family,” Victoria says. “If it had been too much, I would have bowed out and just not gone to college because I didn’t want to put that on my parents, and I didn’t want to put that on myself financially.”

But, as Victoria would learn, each of the Povolos qualified for Presidential Scholarships for high-achieving students, and also qualified for need-based grants and small merit scholarships that in total amounted to a tuition-free four years for the family.

At a meeting with high school guidance counselors in February 2020 – supposedly to “explore ways to pay for college” – with a giant replica check made payable for five higher educations.

The Povolo quintuplets in graduation gowns surround and hug a smiling woman.
Silvia Povolo, surrounded by her five “blessings,” and her husband, Paolo, encourage their sons and daughters to pursue their dreams.

Just the week prior, their parents had looked into refinancing their home. And then ϲ pulls up and gives us a great deal,” Michael recalls. Times five, the scholarships and financial assistance made what seemed impossible, possible.

“It’s so big we can’t even put words to it,” says their mother, Silvia Povolo, recalling that moment and what it has since meant to the family. “I always sit down with them and say, ‘You had four years of college that came to your table and you had the chance to take it with no cost. Whatever you learned in these four years, it’s a blessing… it’s a key to open a golden door.’”

A few weeks before graduation, they were still deciding how to celebrate but leaning toward a backyard party.

“It’s a gigantic moment for them and for us,” says their father, Paolo. “So basically, we’ve been saying, ‘when one door closes another one opens.’ In the sense that college is coming to an end, we have to think of the future, we have to think of what’s next … and that is in the making.”

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.

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