Since they were born, Kimberly and Ashlea Sledge have shared many things, from the contents of their closets to their strong work ethics to a similar taste in music.
For all their similarities - as identical twins there are many - they have just as many differences.“I think growing up with a twin is like having a built-in best friend that you never separate from,” Kimberly said. “A lot of times people considered us as one. We shared pretty much everything and did everything together.”
Because of this, they were often compared to one another, which they both say fostered a competitive spirit between them.
“We each wanted the better grades, the most scholarships, the best of everything, and that, I think, is what drove us to be as successful as we are today,” Ashlea said. “Growing up as competitive as we were was probably not fun for my mom who had to mitigate it all, but I feel like it really helped to shape and form the strong drive and work ethic that we both have.”
Their individuality and personalities shine through when you meet them. While they both are fun-loving and adventurous, Ashlea describes herself as more lighthearted and outgoing and Kimberly as being more serious and reserved.
And Kimberly agrees, saying: “I’m probably more reserved and independent; and she has more of a bubbly personality and likes to socialize 24/7.”
Their career choices seem to reflect that assessment, as Ashlea will soon graduate as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and Kimberly works at C Spire’s corporate office as an Accountant II. Kimberly earned her bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Mississippi College in 2015, followed by a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2016.
“When we went to college and started doing different things, it was weird at first because we were somewhat separating our identities from each other which was something we’d never known,” Kimberly said. “As an adult now, it’s special to think about how we transitioned from that. I love learning about what she does because it’s so different from what I do. I’m 100 percent her biggest cheerleader, and I have the most respect from people that work in healthcare.”
There is an ongoing text and Snapchat conversation going on between them at pretty much all times, and Ashlea says she still reaches out for advice before big decisions.
“I feel like now we are super close,” Ashlea said. “I always consult her before I make decisions still. It’s the funniest thing. I think no matter how old we are, that will never change. Even though I moved for school, we still do everything together that we can.”
“Even though we live in different states now, we’re probably closer than we’ve ever been,” Kimberly added. “We pretty much communicate with each other in some form all day every day.”
“We both adore our dogs and are equally obsessed with each other’s dog. We will facetime each other just so we can see the other’s dog; it’s probably a little obnoxious honestly,” Kimberly joked.
The distance between them while Ashlea is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nurse Anesthesia at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and Kimberly is living and working in the Jackson metro may affect how often they see each other, but they can both agree they make the most of their time together when they have it.
“I think the hardest part about anesthesia school has been moving by myself when I’ve been so used to having Kimberly nearby,” Ashlea said. “When we both lived in Jackson, my house was literally right down the street from hers, so we had never really been ‘apart’ until I went to anesthesia school. Now that I’m adjusted to living away, I think it’s kind of cool because when we get together we always have fun.”
Choosing what to do with their futures was difficult for each of them to decide.
“Like many people, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up,’ so choosing a college major was something I tried to be very strategic about,” Kimberly said. In the end, accounting won out as it fit with her mindset and other future goals.
“I’m very business minded,” she said “I’ve always been drawn to everything business whether it be economics, finance, marketing, operations. I always knew that I would end up in some type of business-related role.”
As for Ashlea, she always knew she wanted a career centered on serving others. She also realized she would not be a good fit for a desk job, which led her to pursuing a career in nursing and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“During my work in the intensive care unit, I kept feeling like God was calling me to do more, but I wasn’t sure what,” she said. “Then one day, after praying for months, it was like a lightbulb went off, I knew I was supposed to go to anesthesia school.
At that point, I began looking at different schools, and I decided to apply to the one school that I found to have an open application period right then. I completed the application, and I was able to get all the required information and references submitted the week of the deadline. When they called me for an interview, I was shocked and excited, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”
In the meantime, she updated her calendar with deadlines for applications for other programs. After that first interview, she was told she was one in 30 selected for the first program she applied to.
“If I would not have been called into caring for others during some of their most vulnerable times, I think it would have made anesthesia school much harder for me,” she said. “Serving people through this field is something I feel like is ingrained in me, and I am so thankful that I get to do it.”
Kimberly and Ashlea also have an older brother who shares their work ethic, but also pursued a vastly different career path than his siblings. Their brother, Guy, owns a Mississippi-based trucking company.
“I think it would be interesting to know how he would respond to ‘what it’s like growing up with twin sisters,’” Kimberly said. “Both of my siblings are so impressive and hardworking.”
The sisters make regular trips between Jackson, Mississippi, and Jackson, Tennessee, to see one another. They both agree that Ashlea makes the trip back to her hometown often, as there is always something going on.
“Whether it be a wedding, a family gathering or local event, there’s never a dull moment,” Kimberly said. “We love to go to Cathead Distillery, and of course we take the dogs. It’s such a fun place to just hang out and relax. We also love to go to our favorite restaurants or try new places.”
They are particularly interested in supporting local causes, especially those supporting their friends in the Phoenix Club and Jackson Junior League. So, Jackson events keep their calendar full.
“What’s better than giving back to your community, but having fun at the same time?” Kimberly said.
“Even though Ashlea doesn’t live here anymore, she still likes to support the community by giving back because it’s her home.”
This year, Kimberly was honored at the annual Best Dressed Jackson benefit for the American Cancer Society, which Ashlea said was her favorite event of the year.
“I loved being able to come home to see her be recognized for all the hard work she put into raising money for a cause that is dear to both of our hearts,” she said.
“I also like to go to events hosted by The Phoenix Club of Jackson and The Junior League, such as Speakeasy Soiree, Seersucker and Sombreros, Mistletoe, because both organizations support youth development,” Kimberly added, which is a cause that is dear to both. “I believe that education, career, character and leadership development of our youth is extremely important for the future of, not only the Jackson-metro area, but the state of Mississippi as a whole.”
They also keep active by competing in many of the area’s 5K runs and other events benefiting area causes.
“Some of the most recent ones we’ve participated in are the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which we dedicated to our late grandmother who passed away in 2014 after battling with dementia for many years, the Jackson Heart Walk, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and 12k’s for the Holidays,” Kimberly said. As they support one another in all of their goals and endeavors, they give equal support to other loved ones, including friends and family.
“Supporting those we care about in their endeavors is very important to us, and they support us whole-heartedly in return,” Ashlea said. “It’s a great thing when young professionals come together to build each other up and give back to the community at the same time. I think that’s the basis of most of the things that Kimberly and I do.”
Education is another of Kimberly’s passions, specifically as it relates to STEM fields and financial literacy, so she has also given time to working with Distributive Education Clubs of America to promote financial literacy across the state.
“I was also a member of Leadership Greater Jackson in 2018,” Kimberly said. “Through this program, I was able to learn so many things about the Greater Jackson area including new ways to serve the people in our community.”
This dedication to education and the betterment of her community also translates in her decision to stay in Mississippi to work toward a brighter future for the state.
“Every day when I wake up and go to work, I feel like I’m making a conscious effort to contribute my absolute best to the community which, in turn, reflects positively on the state as a whole,” Kimberly said. “I believe that it’s so important for millennials, like myself, to stay here and to work diligently to create a better future for Mississippi.”
While Ashlea’s education and career have led her away from the metro for the time being, her desire to improve the world around her is yet another thing she and Kimberly share.
“Jackson will always be home to me, and no matter where my physical residence is, I look forward to always coming back to give back to the community through charitable organizations. Home is where your family is,” Ashlea said.