FLEMING ISLAND – It’s not difficult to tell that Cassidy, Jillian, and Corrina Laird are sisters. While not identical, the resemblance is clear enough to make the connection quickly. Similar to their appearance, their chosen career paths are not identical. While each of the sisters is pursuing a different specific aspect of the field, all three are entering the world of engineering.
Choosing to enter the engineering field may not sound unusual, but the statistics show just how different three sisters entering that field really is. A 2016 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women comprised 44.3 percent of full-time and salary workers. However, when it comes to the field of architecture and engineering, the number drops to just 14 percent. That number makes the Laird sisters stand out that much more.
Cassidy, 24, Jillian, 19, and Corrina,17, are no strangers to standing out.
In 2012, Cassidy tied for highest grade point average after graduating from Ridgeview High’s International Baccalaureate Program. She went on to finish her undergraduate degree in biosystems engineering with a 4.0 GPA and recently finished a master’s degree. Both degrees are from Clemson University where she studied in the Honors College and was honored with the Roger R. and Laura M. Yoerger Preprofessional Engineer of the Year Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers while studying there. She was recently hired as a civilian contractor with the U.S. Air Force.
A Fleming Island High AICE graduate and now a Clemson University student, Jillian is majoring in chemical engineering with a biomolecular concentration. She is also part of the Honors College heading into her junior year.
Corrina recently graduated from the AICE program at Fleming Island High and will begin her studies at Clemson in the fall. She has received the National Merit Scholarship, the Clemson Merit Scholarship and the Corporation Scholarship for National Merit from CSX. She will major in biomedical engineering.
Oftentimes, there are stories like the Lairds, that usually involve parents pushing from behind, but that is not the case with the Lairds. Their mother Julie, an office manager, and their father, an assistant vice president for sales and marketing, took a different approach.
“They knew we were bright kids but they never required us to get A’s or B’s, it was kind of just like ‘do the best you can and we’re here’,” said Jillian. “It was kind of an unspoken ‘we want you to do your best’ and we wanted to make them proud so it just went from there.”
However, Corrina believes that parents and children played roles in their achievement.
“That’s where you get into the responsibility on both parties. Maybe if the kids aren’t as dedicated naturally then their parents may have to enforce that more,” said Corrina. “But I think as far as we go, all you need is that encouragement and somebody that’s got your back and is willing to support you in whatever you want to do and if you have both levels of that then you’re going to get somewhere.”
Cassidy agreed with her sister on that point and said that their family took that approach early on.
“Granted when you’re little, no one wants to do homework and things like that, but they really sat us down and said ‘no, you’re going to do this’ and kind of gave us this mainframe and once we took to it they just let us go and do our own thing,” said Cassidy.
Jillian also made sure to enforce the fact that their parents instilled a sense of pride and self-reliance in all of them as well.
“I want to impress my parents but everything they’ve taught has been ‘do this for yourself, this isn’t us that’s going to gain from it. It’s ultimately you. You’re going to get farther based on your efforts and you’re going to reap the rewards. We’re going to be proud parents on the sideline and support you whatever you do, but do it for yourself,’” said Jillian.
But, what about sibling rivalry? Surely, that plays a part in this.
If it’s not their parents driving them to succeed, could it be sibling rivalry? All three sisters dismissed that idea fairly quickly, although Cassidy joked about being the one to start everything since she’s the oldest.
“We’re all competitive but it’s more of an, ‘OK, that’s been done, what more can I do feeling’,” said Corrina.
“It’s more about pushing each other to be better than trying to beat each other,” said Jillian.
All three agree that they were encouraged to try new things and their parent’s goal was for them to be as well-rounded as possible. For example, each sister took one year of music lessons in junior high to see if it was something they wanted to pursue further.
“I think all of us, except Jillian, kept going with an instrument at least through high school,” said Corrina, laughing.
“I’d love to learn more but I think I take more joy out of other people playing the instruments,” said Jillian.
“I don’t think the French horn was quite her instrument,” joked Cassidy, who played the alto saxophone in the Clemson Tiger Band, where she was also section leader.
While Jillian may not have taken to music, she certainly excelled in other extracurricular activities.
Jillian was captain of both the swim and track teams in high school while also playing soccer. At Clemson she is a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority, plays on the club soccer team, sits on the Calhoun Honors College Committee and RHA Community Council and participates in a number of other clubs and organizations.
All of the Laird sisters have impressive resumes of extracurricular activities to match their academic achievements.
Cassidy was a drum major in high school band as well as being on the swim and soccer teams and doing martial arts. She founded the Order of the Engineer at Clemson, was a member of multiple honor societies and other organizations. Cassidy has also traveled and studied abroad in countries such as Australia, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Corrina plays soccer for both her school team as well as the Clay County Premier Club, is captain of the varsity swim team at Fleming Island where she qualified for districts, regionals and state, holds the 50-yard butterfly and 50 yard backstroke records for the FCSSL, plays flag football and is a member of the Fleming Island varsity track team where she made All-County First Team. She is also a member of multiple honor societies, including the vice president of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, a soccer camp counselor and a member of a number of other clubs and organizations.
The Lairds certainly see the value in being well rounded, and they apply that philosophy to life in general, not just academics and extracurriculars.
“We found our own value in our community as well as our education. At the end of the day if you’re just community based or just education based then there’s no connection between them,” said Jillian. “But the whole point, especially for engineering, you’re supposed to do it for the public and for the betterment of the world so it really helps to have a well-rounded persona.”