Meet Trinity’s most recent graduates
Over the last year, Trinity celebrated the graduation of more than 400 women and men. These parting interviews were collected just after they graduated
Jenea “Elle” Howard ‘13 – College of Arts and Sciences
“Trinity has taught me the importance of the strength of the positive bonds of sisterhood, learning effectively how to deal with gender inequality, and knowing the first hand benefits of having a strong support system,” said Jenea “Elle” Howard when asked about the most lasting aspect of her Trinity experience. As for the class that made the biggest impact in her life, “‘Political Lives of Women,’ taught by Dr. Kathleen McGinnis, taught me that you don’t know people’s stories until you either hear it from them or you ask them. We had to write a final autobiography as the class project, and I was deeply moved by all of my Trinity sisters’ stories.”
Howard met Assistant U.S. Attorney Shana Fulton at the Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports during a trainer’s workout session. After learning about the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Howard researched positions, applied and was hired more than two years ago at the Superior Court in the felony major crimes section. “I love the work that the U.S. Attorney’s Office does for the citizens of the District of Columbia.”
“My Trinity degree in political science allowed me to obtain a strong set of skills and work ethic that allows me to be a great asset to the U. S. Attorney’s Office. Trinity’s mission of social justice has led me to understand the importance of giving back to the citizens of D.C. by working tirelessly each day to help bring them justice that my office strives to give them each day.” She graduated magna cum laude from Trinity in May, and is now pursuing her master’s degree at George Washington University while continuing to work.
For her successful graduation, Howard thanks Dean Michele “Meechie” Bowie, saying, “She is the mother hen to all Trinity women and we are so lucky to have her.”
In parting, Howard said, “Trinity gave me four amazing years of friendships, laughter and challenging coursework that have shaped me into the great and amazing woman that I am today. To all of my current and new Trinity sisters I give you this advice to follow: take advantage of Trinity’s location in Washington and use it as your tool for your success. Look at all that I accomplished while I was at Trinity! You can do it also. God made all of my success possible! If you want to know how I did so well at Trinity, it was him behind the scenes all along.”
Morgan Renee Carrillo ‘13 – College of Arts and Sciences
“Trinity offered me the incredible opportunity to enhance my education through strong academic and broad co-curricular activities,” said Morgan Renee Carrillo, who graduated cum laude in May. Her international affairs major and women’s studies minor “reinforced my deep desire to serve others and affect social change. My involvement in the Women’s Student Action Coalition and Campus Ministry supported my academic endeavors.”
“I have a strong desire to pursue a graduate degree in international affairs and gender,” said Carrillo. While at Trinity, she interned for then-Representative Ron Klein of Florida, and then as a campaign fellow for Lois Frankel’s campaign for Congress, where Frankel won the seat formerly held by Klein. “Both of these directed internships provided me with great political experience,” Carrillo said.
“As a first-year student I was less confident about seeing myself as a leader on the campus or in my community,” said Carrillo. “I had the desire, but lacked the confidence. My experiences in my academic and co-curricular activities gave me opportunities to develop my own confidence as an agent of social change. I think that the most lasting aspect of my time at Trinity would be my newfound confidence in myself to have the ability to lead and affect change in the world. Trinity is responsible for me recognizing my potential to turn my ideas into action.”
When asked about her religious faith at Trinity, Carrillo said she has always been a practicing Catholic, but “I had not done my sacrament of confirmation. Trinity’s amazing Campus Minister Sr. Mary Ellen Dow made it possible for me to complete my sacrament of confirmation in my final semester at Trinity. Not only was Sr. Mary Ellen there, but several other faculty were in attendance on our special day, and Dr. Jamey Piland was my confirmation sponsor. I can think of no better place to do my confirmation. “
While at Trinity, Carrillo fondly remembers sledding down the hill on lunch trays when it snowed. She made “incredible, lasting friendships. Although we may not have had the same majors or academic interests, all Trinity Women that I know are strong, intelligent women who have a desire to lead and serve others.”
Innocent Akpuaka ‘13 and Chinenye Vivian Akpuaka ‘13 - School of Nursing and Health Professions
Husband and wife Innocent and Chinenye Akpuaka completed their bachelor of science in nursing degrees together in May. They reflected on the challenges of raising a family while both parents were in school. Innocent said, “The nursing program is not an easy program; you have to decide this is what you want to do before signing up for the program. It takes sacrifice, determination, and the ability to keep your mind on the goal – to remember what you are in school for.”
It wasn’t easy for the couple while working on their degrees, and they gave up time for special occasions in exchange for more time studying. Even Innocent’s family members questioned whether it was advisable for both of them to go to school at once, instead of one finishing first before the other enrolled. But in the end, they are happy with the outcome. “Thank God we made it and a big thanks to everyone at Trinity Washington University,” said Innocent.
He has been a licensed practical nurse since 2001, and changed his work hours in order to pursue his degree, switching to work 12 hours on Fridays and 16 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Chinenye, Innocent and their daughter Singlair live in Baltimore, and with traffic, the commute to school was as long as an hour and thirty minutes. To get to their clinicals or class at seven in the morning, they woke Sinclair up at four to take her to the babysitter. Some nights, classes went as late as 9:30 at night, and they picked her up from the babysitter at 11, when she was already sleeping.
Both Innocent and Chinenye owe thanks to Innocent’s mother. Chinenye said, “Thanks to my mother-in-law, Theresa Akpuaka, who comes and helps us with the baby while we are in school. What would we do without her? She is a loving mother-in-law. I love you Mum.”
Innocent is also thankful that Chinenye still makes a home-cooked meal each night, even when they get home at 11.
Chinenye was recently hired at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore as a patient care technician. Though she did not get hired through Trinity, she was thankful that “Trinity sent many job openings to students through email. I love the way they sent the job lists because some of our classmates who didn’t have jobs at that time benefited from it. Not every school does that, I love it.”
Innocent is studying for the state nursing board exam. Of his profession, he said, “Nursing is a beautiful thing, especially when people come to you to find out what they need to do for an infection, and you are able to help them. It makes you feel so good. I love helping people who cannot help themselves. It’s a beautiful thing. I love nursing.”
Innocent reflected, “I will miss all the instructors at Trinity – they are very special – especially Mary Miller, Dr. Nancie Bruce, Kathryn Mancusi, Dr. Heidi Maloni, Bridgette Tucker, Dr. Daphne Waite and, last but not the least, Danielle Artis who is my advisor. Thank you all.”
What Chinenye will miss most about Trinity is, “the computer room, the cafeteria, the library. These are the places you would find me and my husband when we were at Trinity and I will miss going there.”
Giving advice to current or future students, Innocent said, “Be willing to help others; be positive and believe in yourself; that you can do it. Make some good friends in every class; don’t be shy to ask questions or ask your classmates who understand the topic you are having trouble with; study after each topic; and be nice to your classmates so that you can get help from them when you need it.”
They were both born and raised Catholic. “The Catholic church is a beautiful church, and I’m very glad I got my bachelor of science in nursing from a Catholic school,” said Chinenye. “But the most important thing is that you believe, and practice what you believe in – not what type of church you go to. You know what is right and what is wrong, so do the right thing.”
Innocent finished by saying, “Now that school is over, I will spend more time with my family, contact and visit most of our friends that we haven’t seen for a long time, study for and pass my nursing board exam, get a weekday job and have another baby, by God’s grace.”
Lisa Michele Thompson ‘12 - School of Professional Studies
Lisa Thompson’s interest is in public service, “because there is a growing need for minorities and low-income households to receive adequate legal assistance,” and she has worked as a legal secretary for more than 25 years. She had initially planned to pursue her master’s in counseling after she
completed her bachelor’s in human relations in August of 2012, to purse her passion of helping women, children and families cope with domestic violence and other negative domestic situations. Her human relations degree allowed her a choice of many avenues to explore after graduation. Then she had an epiphany, and realized that she would be able to help these groups best if she pursued her law degree. This summer, Thompson is taking a course that will prepare her for the LSAT test to get into law school, and help her prepare for all aspects of law school. She takes the LSAT in December.
Having been out of school for several years, when she came to Trinity, “I was anxious, apprehensive, fearful and nervous,” said Thompson. She was worried that she would not fit in, or be able to keep up with the workload. “However, when I went to my first class, all of that was diminished when I saw several women who looked like me and shared the same story. They too were over 30, single parents or housewives and returning to school after several years of being out of an academic environment. I made friends, networked and gleaned from many women from all walks of life.”
Thompson also speaks fondly of a younger Trinity student, Jessyca Graves-Byrd. “We had several classes together and at first our relationship consisted of working on class projects together and that led to us formulating a friendship. Because of our age difference, I decided that I would adopt her as my little sister as well as my friend. While at Trinity, we studied together, shared tips on how we could manage our school workload, jobs and family to each other. We prayed together, shared our future plans and dreams of what we were going to do after graduation. Once Jessyca, who graduated with a double major in criminal justice and human relations, completes her master’s in counseling and I complete law school, we plan to become business partners.”
Thompson credits her mother, Mary Ann Thompson, who completed her degree in social work at 65 years old, leading by example. She also thanks her statistics teacher, Joe Fred Gonzalez, Jr., who ended every class with what became her mantra, “Keep on pushing.”
Courtney Rae O’Neal ‘13 – School of Professional Studies
Courtney O’Neal earned her master of arts in communication in May, and was elected to Lambda Pi Eta, the national honor society of the National Communication Association. While she is looking for a new position in a communications company, O’Neal said that she got her degree in communication because of the importance she places on sharing stories with others, and engaging in conversation about lessons learned and mistakes made along people’s career paths.
“I think the fellowship and camaraderie amongst the faculty, my peers and classmates is a positive and lasting experience offered by Trinity,” said O’Neal. She reflects on her working with Associate Dean Dr. Kelley Wood throughout her time at Trinity as being a favorite memory. “I think learning the proper way to conduct research from Assistant Professor Dr. Stanley Nwoji was also an intense, but very rich experience. His teaching about the importance of research has inspired me to consider acquiring my doctorate degree.”
When asked about the class that made the most impact on her life, O’Neal said, “I think literally every class that I took within my program was impactful, but I’d have to say that ‘new communication technology’ was the most influential as well as relevant, being a part of the digital age and community. That field and area of study is growing and evolving constantly within the communications industry.”
O’Neal cherishes all of the friendships she made while at Trinity, and said that everyone she met within her program are now lasting friends and had “a wonderful shared experience at Trinity.” Though she considers herself more spiritual than religious, O’Neal said, “I know that God is ultimately what got me through this very challenging experience successfully!”
“Working and attending school full time is a challenge that is difficult to articulate, but one that is telling of your dedication and commitment to yourself above all,” said O’Neal. “I am thankful for having experienced it as now I know a new meaning to hard work and also seeing fruits of its reward. Thank you, Trinity.”
Daniel Paul Flynn ‘13 – School of Education
“What I will remember from my time at Trinity are long nights sitting at my laptop, researching journal articles, APA formatting, binders with plastic sleeves, papers, PowerPoint presentations and a lot of laughs,” said Daniel Flynn. He earned his master of science in administration in educational administration in May, which he hopes will aid him in finding a position as a principal in a Catholic elementary school. “In order to apply for any administrative position in the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools, a master’s in education is required. Trinity provided me with the required degree and certification but also gave me valuable insight into the field of education through the testimonies of my cohort classmates and my professors.”
Flynn thoroughly enjoyed two classes he took with Dr. Henry Johnson. “He shared a wealth of information from his educational experiences. He truly served as a mentor to us. He treated me like a real person.” He would also like to thank Dr. Gladys Williams for helping him successfully graduate.
As for the most lasting aspect of his time at Trinity, Flynn said, “I will remember my cohort the most. We became a close family. We spent so much time together working on the same projects, papers and assignments; we shared a lot in class and out of class as well. They truly made the experience for me enjoyable and memorable. The entire Cohort 2 was a major help and support to me. They will be missed.”
Flynn concluded by talking about challenges he overcame in order to finish his degree. “Somehow I managed working 50-hour weeks, a wife, and eight children. All proof that there is a God.”
Iyon Ronnell Johnson ‘13 – School of Education
Speaking of her time at Trinity, Iyon Johnson reflected, “Attending Trinity developed my faith. I was able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Trinity is an awesome place to attend. I love its diversity and how my professors were diligent in giving me a good education.” She overcame significant obstacles in order to complete her degrees at Trinity. She said, “When I attended Trinity during my undergraduate coursework, I was in the hospital about 80 percent of the time and still managed to graduate with a 3.0, not to mention that I was also homeless. As I entered in my graduate studies I was living in transitional housing and was determined to do my best no matter the circumstances.”
Indeed, Johnson graduated with her master’s in counseling in May and plans to become a counselor in the private sector or in a school setting. “I most likely will work with children,” she said.
The class that most made an impact on Johnson was multicultural counseling. “The class was very hands-on and I had to go out into the community and attend different events. Events I am sure I would not have attended otherwise, such as a play at Gallaudet University and a visit to a Muslim hall. These experiences are ones that I will never forget.”
As a student, Johnson researched internship locations, but she appreciated that Trinity held an internship workshop so that she would know what to expect. Trinity also brought in a counseling liaison to help students choose and apply for internships. “I gained sufficient knowledge on how to deal with others,” Johnson said of her internship that Trinity placed her in.
For helping her graduate successfully, Johnson thanks her children and significant other, William, for believing in her. She also credits Associate Dean Lynn Johnson, “for motivating me when I felt like I couldn’t do it any longer,” and the entire School Of Education “for having faith in my abilities to do well.”
Her favorite memory at Trinity? “Passing my CEPE, the counselor’s exam. I cried because I was so happy.”