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W&L’s Five “Leaplings” Celebrate Fifth Birthday

When Jena Glavy arrived at Washington and Lee University from her home in Stafford, Va., she had never before met someone who shared her birthday—Feb. 29.

She knows now that she is one of five members of W&L’s Class of 2014 who were born on Feb. 29, 1992. They all turn 20 years old this Feb. 29 and can celebrate on their actual date of birth for only the fifth time. “I don’t think any of us knew too many people who were born on that day before coming to W&L,” said Glavy. “Now there are five of us in the same class. That’s definitely strange.”

In fact, it’s about 10 times the national average.

According to statistics posted on the Enchanted Learning website (http://www.enchantedlearning.com/time/leapyear/), the percentage of the population born on a leap day is less than one-tenth of a percent. For Washington and Lee’s Class of 2014, with 440 members, the percentage of the class born on a leap day is 1 percent.

In addition to Glavy, W&L’s leap-day babies, known as either “leaplings” or “leapers,” are Lauren Boone, of Louisville, Ky., James (Jed) Helvey, of Winston-Salem, N.C., Anne Howard, of Alexandria, Va., and Andrew Seredinski, of Flourtown, Pa.

For the leap-day babies, the actual date for their birthday parties happens only once every four years. In the non-leap years, some celebrate on Feb. 28, others on March 1. Glavy said she celebrates on Feb. 28 “because I can’t wait to open my presents.”

Seredinski also celebrates on Feb. 28, although he pointed out that his parents celebrate both days. “I prefer Feb. 28 because I was born in February,” he said.

In past leap years, however, both Glavy and Seredinski said, the occasion was a good excuse for a special celebration. “When I turned eight, or two years old technically, two separate people gave me a $2 bill. They were the first ones I’d ever seen,” recalled Seredinski. “I didn’t know the bills existed.”

Glavy said that every leap year her mother would throw a party and invite everyone. “It was a big thing,” she said. “I particularly remember my 16th birthday party.  I was really four years old, and my mom threw me a surprise party that was Disney princess-themed. I totally didn’t expect it, and it was fun.”

When she was growing up, Boone remembers enjoying the distinction of having such a rare birthdate — “but I didn’t like not having a ‘real’ birthday every year.” She adopted the practice of spreading her birthday across two days in non-leap years.

Both Seredinski and Glavy said that being a leapling is useful when it comes to meeting new people. “When you go to a camp, or somewhere like that, and you have to tell two truths and a lie about yourself, I always say that Feb. 29 is my birthday,” said Glavy. “To me, it’s cool that I have an interesting fact about myself.”

Helvey, who also celebrates on Feb. 28 in non-leap years, said that he’s never considered the unusual birthdate to be a really big deal but that “everyone thinks it’s kind of amusing that I’m technically turning five.”

Glavy noted that being a leapling means you never have the problem of someone else sharing your birthday in school and two different mothers bringing cupcakes. “You were special. It was your own day,” she said.

“When I turned 16, or 4, a girl had transferred into my high school with the same birthday,” said Boone. “We had a big party for both of us that year.”

This year, Glavy and Seredinski will celebrate with friends once they’ve completed their studies, while Helvey’s parents and siblings are coming to Lexington for a birthday dinner. “I’ll probably spend my birthday writing up an optics lab,” said Seredinski.  Glavy said that with a test the next day, she’ll be studying chemistry and thermodynamics. “That won’t be too much fun,” she said.”But I’ll have a good time with my friends afterwards.”

When asked if there was a downside to being a leapling, Glavy laughed and said that next year, when she turns 21 and there is no Feb. 29, her driver’s license shows that she doesn’t turn 21 until March 1. She noted, “I’ll have to wait a whole extra day” to celebrate her 21st legally.