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They Persisted: Trinity Graduates 2017


Cheers at graduation(photo from a prior Trinity graduation)

Congratulations to all graduates in the Class of 2017!  On Saturday, May 20, we will gather on the front lawn to confer degrees and celebrate your achievements.  Mayor Muriel Bowser will speak and 3,000 of your closest friends and family members will join us for the celebration.

Housekeeping team sets up chairs on the lawn(We couldn’t have graduation without the hard work of Team Trinity, here setting up the first of 3,500 chairs on the front lawn.  Thank you!)

Trinity’s Class of 2017 worked hard to achieve their degrees, and they persisted in the face of so many challenges.  I invited members of the Class of 2017 to share their stories of persistence and success, and some of them are below.  I invite others to continue to submit your stories by using the comments box linked at the end of this blog.

Sylvia Bryant, BA in Human Relations (School of Professional Studies):  “I was 18 years old and pregnant in my last year in high school. My parents were not supportive of me and I understood why.  Especially, my father, he was very upset and downhearted. Like most fathers, he wanted the best for me.  My father once told me, “I would not amount to nothing”.  Although, this was a disappointed time in my life, I was determined to finish high school.  I did not want this poor choice to define me.  I wanted to be somebody.  While, in 1988, I managed to graduate from Frank Ballou High School and I decided to attend college after my first son was born. I was 20 years old when I started my journey of pursuing my bachelor’s degree. Throughout the many years of challenges of life, from having a government job, marriage, three sons, and a loving home.  To a bitter divorce, homelessness, bankruptcies, jobless, food stamps, foreclosures, and singleness. I managed to achieve my bachelor’s degree in Human Relations at Trinity Washington University.  I am the first out of ten siblings to finished college. It took me 27 years and I thank God for keeping me through it all.”

Ashley Leonard, B.A. in Communication (College of Arts and Sciences):  “When I entered Trinity I was not sure of what I wanted to do, who I was, or who I could be. Finally being on my own after having a tumultuous upbringing, I was lost to say the least. I did not have a positive attitude towards much and it was evident in my demeanor. It was the continuous support, patience, understanding and kindness from not only my professors and advisors, but also from the faculty that kept me motivated. I was supported by everyone that worked in the building, from DPS officers to food service workers. Trinity was one of the first places I felt like I had a genuine family. The further I got in my coursework the more I began to understand about the world and myself. I was no longer filled with so much confusion and rage. I went from being a loner to being involved and recognized by my peers and professors. Even when I became pregnant and had to leave for a semester, I was not forgotten. I used to hang my head but now I hold it high, I have done something I never thought I would be able to do. There have been so many obstacles in my path and I honestly believe had I been anywhere else, my story may not have been the same. I am so appreciative to belong to this community and so fortunate to have so many women to be inspired by. I can only hope to one day inspire others. I am already working and able to take care of my son and myself and plan to attend grad school this fall. If I were to have any advice for the students after me it would be to embrace the support, don’t rush the experience, and above all else, remember that you’re not alone.”

Tymillia and Isaiah at Cap and Gown(Tymillia Johnson and her son Isaiah at Cap and Gown last fall.)

Tymillia Johnson, B.S. in Business Administration (School of Professional Studies):  “I worked as the Confidential Assistant to the Chief Counsel at the United States Small Business Administration. I had been in the office for about 8 years when I was let go on Mother’s Day in 2014. I will never forget that day because I am a mother and I had just lost my job. I immediately started to apply for positions but found without my degree I was considered UNQUALIFIED for the GS 9 level positions I worked in previously. On top of that my precious 6-year-old son Isaiah announced to me that “You didn’t go to college and get a degree, so I might not go either Mommy”.  The statement rocked my heart and my world. I the mother of a strong black male was NOT setting the example I wanted for him. That same week I applied to Trinity Washington University.  The road has not been easy. In my two years at Trinity I have gotten divorced, been homeless for a month, had to give my son to my parents for a year, and went through a domestic violence relationship. All through this I continued to attend classes and keep my eyes on the prize.  Trinity became a sanctuary for me. All the negative that was surrounding me seem to never cross that Trinity Washington front gate. I was starting to believe that the Nuns scared off all negative vibes. Lol Or that Trinity holds some kind of magic that keeps you working or moving forward. I have decided that it is the students. My own peers asked, helped and cared about graduation. Not just for themselves but for me too. It was like I had earned a whole sister hood and family upon acceptance to Trinity. That focus is felt throughout the whole campus. I thank my teachers and my peers for pushing me when I wanted to quit. I thank them for holding me when I cried. Or offering a place to stay when I didn’t have one. I thank them for reminding me that I am a mom and why I was at Trinity Washington University. Not just for a degree in Business Administration but I came to complete a requirement to my son. To make sure the next generation has no excuse. I can now stand and say, ‘I did it through all adversity and so can you!’”

Ashley Horn, M.S.A. in Educational Administration (School of Education): “My time at Trinity has been a complete whirlwind. At the start of my graduate studies I was appointed as the Head Volleyball Coach at a local high school, my mother had a quadruple bypass, and I was balancing the requirements of teaching full-time. Despite all the challenges I experienced personally and professionally, I never gave up. I dedicate my success as a person to my mother. She sacrificed her dreams and academic career to ensure that my siblings and I were successful. She pushed, encouraged, fussed, and more importantly loved me unconditionally. This degree represents more than the completion of course requirements for me. It is the response to answered prayers, the start of a new journey, and the hope that anything is possible.”

Tafia Allah Pringle at Senior Luncheon(Tafia Allah Pringle offers the blessing at the Senior Luncheon.)

Tafia Allah-Pringle, B.A. in Communication, minor in Psychology (College of Arts & Sciences):  D.C. Resident Tafia Allah-Pringle grew up in New Jersey and had a career in public relations and media.  But she decided to leave the workforce to pursue her college degree full-time in Trinity’s women’s college.  She now writes, “My Trinity journey is but an awakening of the fullness that has rested within my soul.  It was the fall of 2014, I re-entered college as a non-traditional, day student. My perplexity was in how I would make a positive difference, while excelling in my studies.  The answer came not from my logic of how it would happen, but simply from doing. Whether, it was through my support for my fellow students, through grace and professionalism in classes, volunteer work with students on presentation tips in groups or individually, taking time throughout my weekends to find and secure internships for seniors who needed one to graduate, or attend the Take Back the Night event, with my two sons, every year, to stand in support of my sisters, I made a difference.  Thankfully, I was able to maintain the Dean’s list every semester, achieve inductions in two national honor society’s, receive recommendations from multiple professors, sustain excellent relationships with staff, students, and employers, and lastly, end my final semester with a straight A GPA. I am ever so appreciative of the Trinity sisterhood. It goes without saying that as I depart this campus, my spirit has awakened!”

Chavonne Streeter, A.A. in General Studies (School of Professional Studies at THEARC) in the photo with me, below, reminded me at rehearsal that she was featured in this Washington Times news article in 2014: Trinity D.C. Still Empowering Women for Life

President McGuire and Chavonne Streeter at rehearsal

Karen Comfort, B.A. in Communication (School of Professional Studies):  “When I think about my journey to get to this place, it literally brings tears of both triumph and joy to my eyes.  I started Trinity in August 1995 taking one class, and received a C.  I left Trinity that year.  At the time, I was working full-time, and was a widow and single-mother of two children.  I returned to Trinity in August 2004.  I enrolled in one class.  I was determined that this time I was not getting another C; and, I also was going to finish no matter what!!  By this time, I was remarried and was a full-time working mother of five children!  That semester I made an A in my class.  From that semester up until the fall 2009, I took one class at a time.  I was determined that if I had to take one class at a time until I completed my bachelor’s degree work then that was what I would do.  While working on my undergraduate degree at Trinity, I also worked hard at exceling in my career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where I started as a Secretary at my agency and am now the Deputy Associate Administrator/Deputy Chief Operating Officer.

“I am the second person in my immediate family to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.  The first was my oldest son, and this summer my oldest daughter will be the third person in my immediate family to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.  Earning my degree was important to me because I needed to be a positive role model for my five children, as well as my husband who currently has an Associate’s Degree. I am encouraging my children and my husband to continue to grow intellectually by earning their Bachelor’s degree and also advanced degrees.  I have applied to both American University and George Washington University for my Master in Public Administration.  Both universities have strong ties to the Federal government.  American University’s program helps Federal employees prepare for the highest level the Federal government, the Senior Executive Service.

“My journey at Trinity Washington University has truly been rewarding. I have met so many inspirational women, men, and professors.  Professors such as Dr. Elson, Farrah Barrios, and Dr. Beverly stretched, encouraged, and coached me and my colleagues.  I will be forever grateful to them for their tutelage.  One of the most exciting parts of my journey was when the poem that I wrote in Dr. Beverly’s creative writing class was published in The Record! Who knew that I was a poet!!

“We are all gifted and talented in our own unique way.  I know that sounds cliché-ish, but it’s true.  So, if I were to give one piece of advice to student’s coming after me it is never sell yourself short!  It is important to stretch yourself so that you can discover all of your unique gifts and talents.  I’ll never forget when Dr. Elson talked about how painful his math class was when he was in college.  He shared with us how hard he had to study; and how much help he sought out to get his beautiful “B.”  No pain, no gain!  The pain you might experience for a short while, will never compare to the joy, pride and sense of accomplishment you will feel when you walk across that stage, have a degree with your name on it that no one can take away from you, and the icing on the cake is having Latin Honors conferred on you!”

Soccer player Abla(Abla Alodjinou, essay below, a leader on and off the field!)

Abla Alodjinou, BA in Criminal Justice (College of Arts & Sciences):  “My four years at Trinity have been amazing, I have truly discovered my strength here and I couldn’t be more thankful. I have achieved accomplishments that I could have never imagined during this  roller coaster ride of many emotions getting my degree. The journey has been one with many words but nonetheless AWESOME overall. I thank God, my family, friends, teachers who made it possible (Prof Scott), and lastly, sports! Playing soccer, basketball, and softball throughout my college years has opened up and broaden my horizons and opportunities to do much more. Tomorrow begins a new chapter of my life which i can’t wait to explore and be a better me! As MLK says, “Evil triumphs when good people do nothing”; hearing Pat McGuire say this at the luncheon made me realize that the only way to make a difference is by getting involved in what’s happening around me. With my CJ degree I will be receiving, I hope to make that change by helping others through the justice system. Thank you Trinity for the great memories with people I will never forget and I hope to create a legacy for future Trinity sisters in upcoming years.”

Janice Mason, B.A. in Human Relations (School of Professional Studies): “When I started this journey I had became unsure of my future. I was planning my wedding when my fiancé died of a heart attack in front of me. I went from planning a wedding to planning a funeral, so I asked God to show me a new way. I needed something to do to give me meaning, and purpose again in life. The God that I serve led me to Trinity College, it was a rough ride because I was in a fog. I could not see any hope, and I had lost sight of my future. I have not totally overcome this hurdle but I have been able to embrace it. I have been encouraged, and inspired by so many like friends, family, and Professors. I would like to believe that I inspired my children, friends, and some family members. My goal is to go on to get my Master’s degree in Social work. My advice to other students is to persevere even when it feels, and looks like it is impossible to achieve. If possible try to find at least one person that is willing to motivate you on your journey. I suggest that no matter what do not give up five minutes before the miracle. I wish all well on your new found journey. If God did it for me, he can do it for you.”

Pernelope Marion Whitby, MSA in Organizational Development (School of Business and Graduate Studies):  “At the age of 58, I made the decision pursue the Master of Science Administration in Organizational Development Degree. After finishing my last degree more than 20 years ago, I wanted this degree so that I would have fresh credentials as I enter my new phase of life. While in this pursuit, my biggest challenge was pressing through reading and completing assignments on time, while face with retina issues in both eyes after cataract surgery. There were times when redness, swelling and pain in my eyes would prevent me from doing anything, but I knew I was on a journey and I could not give in to the discomfort. My Mother, Dolores Marion, 81 years old, was my loudest cheerleader. She was a constant reminder of what the journey was all about – having a new degree for my new phase of life. I will be turning 60 years old this year, and in addition to using wisdom and life skills, I wanted to have new knowledge to share with others. Being a student again helped me realize that my maturity, seriousness, and dedication impacted both my professors and classmates. As one piece of advice I would leave to incoming students – please take being a student seriously! The payoff is worth every dollar spent in tuition!”

Taylour Gardiner, BSN (School of Nursing and Health Professions): Taylor is one of the first Conway Scholars in Nursing to graduate.  A graduate of McKinley High School in the District, Taylour Gardiner has long wanted to be a midwife, a profession about which she writes with eloquence and determination. She describes midwifery’s history and its place in educating women and children as well as modeling and training all the midwives who come after her to give women and children the support they deserve.  As a first-year student at Trinity Taylour attended weekly night classes to become a Certified Birth Worker, or Doula; in addition to her college workload. She joined the non-profit organization, Mamatoto Village, where she learned how to counsel and prepare women for a drug and intervention-free birth, along with attending births with them and offering postpartum support. Taylour says, “It was a wonderful opportunity for me and really solidified my desire to become a Nurse-Midwife.”

Katrina Riley-Sawyer, B.S. in Criminal Justice (School of Professional Studies):  “Boy, do I have a story of persistence.  I am an SPS student, graduating cum laude, with my BS degree in Criminal Justice.  Whew, have I overcome some hardships during my tenure at Trinity.

  1. I survived colon rectal cancer and persisted with my studies.
  2. There were many days when I was wheeled into class in a wheelchair from a severely broken leg and kept-a-plugin’ away.  I continued on with the walker and subsequently a cane, and still I persisted.
  3. At one point, my basement was under water for a period of nearly 5 months. As I waded through the water, I completed my homework in spite of.
  4. I experienced a bout of police brutality, which sent me into a state of despair where I would become momentarily paralyzed every time I saw the flashing lights of a police car, but still I persisted in my studies.

“Quitting was never an idea nor an option for me.  Getting my degree has been on my bucket list since high school, (1978). It won’t get me a promotion at work, nor will I earn any more money; it was all for self gratification. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  My children and grandchildren will see me proudly walk across that stage on Saturday and I will be ecstatic as I beam with pride. I am ever so grateful that God saw fit to allow me to see this day.  Not just that I’ve earned my degree, but that I can walk again. Ain’t GOD GOOD!”

Shileta Gorham, B.S. in Business Administration (School of Professional Studies):  “It’s often difficult for adults to find their footing; when they’ve been out of school for a long period – I guess you could count me as one amongst many. Before coming to Trinity I had spent almost four years out of school. Mostly because of the difficulty I had finding a school my credits would transfer to because my credits from my previous school were not accepted at most of my area colleges. In the beginning, I decided on Trinity because a friend from high school was going here and was taking CAS courses. So, I figured knowing one person is a little less frightening than knowing no one and it just seemed right. I had always been interested in furthering my educational career though it never occurred to me that I would even get accepted by Trinity with all my previous setbacks – I wasn’t all that optimistic but with encouragement from my family I took a chance, “no risk, no reward” right? So, I was determined to finish what I started four years ago.

“Being disabled made things a bit of a challenge: I struggled…being sick, physically exhausted and in pain often times affected my attendance. However, I continued to persevere even when I was absent I worked hard to meet the deadlines for every assignment.  A feat I know I could not have achieved without the support and camaraderie of my friends at Trinity – seeing how motivated they were and that we all shared a common goal – which kept me going at times when I wanted to give up, my many supportive Professors who wanted nothing more than to see me succeed, but most importantly I did it for me.  For all the personal pain I endured, for all the naysayers who sought to mentally and emotionally break me. I stood tall and continued. My personal trials and tribulations and working had not come without its difficulties all of which I carried to class with me at night…managing physical fatigue, leg spasms (due to inclement weather) and the physical downfalls of Cerebral Palsy that almost deterred me from getting to this point. I am proud of myself and all that my fellow graduates have accomplished. It is a lot to attend school as a working professional. It says a lot about what we all are made of. I am proud that I have succeeded when there were countless opportunities for me to fail. I am here and I am proud to call myself a Trinity Alumna.”

Jasmine Brockett,  B.A. in Communication: “I started my journey as freshman with hopes of majoring in Biology. I wanted to become a pediatrician with hopes of being able to care and help others. After my grandmother passed away during my first semester at Trinity and after struggling through a difficult mathematics course my second semester of college, I decided that I wanted to pursue a different major. I claimed my communication major my sophomore year at the sophomore pin ceremony. A few days prior to the sophomore pin ceremony, I was diagnosed with a health condition that would cause me to have to take high dosages of multiple medications. During my junior year of college I witness my father’s health decline. By my senior year of college, my dad was place on dialysis and he has continued to suffer from multiple health issue. That same year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and received chemotherapy and radiation treatments. As an only child, I managed to care for the needs of both of my parents, while completing an internship, and taking multiple college courses. By the grace of God I managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA average and on May 20th I will graduate Cum Laude. I will be the first person in my father’s immediate family to obtain a college degree. I was recently inducted into the communication honor society. After graduation, I plan to transform the live of others my creating positive television programs for a diverse audience. I am grateful for the wonderful friends and Trinity staff that have shaped me into the determined woman that I am today. My determination has been an inspiration for others. The advice that I would give an incoming students is to always put God first and to never give up on your dreams.”

Joseline Araujo at senior luncheon(Senior Class President Joseline Araujo, essay below, speaks at the Senior Luncheon.)

Joseline A. Araujo, BA in Sociology/ Minor in History (College of Arts & Sciences): “Trinity Washington University opened a new view on education for myself. I realize now the importance of being a woman of color and having a college education. Being resilient, fearless and confident in anything that comes into my path is what I have earned through my four years in Trinity. When I first arrived to the university my selection into the Honors Program was my freshmen year challenge to learn. Immediately, my journey began with a study group of women who were passionate about their studies and each had their own story as to why Trinity was their paths. I was inspired by these women because not only did they become trustworthy for studies, these women became my very first Trinity sisters.

“Sophomore year was my most difficult year for my personal life. I began to see my Trinity sisters struggle with difficult courses and we weren’t in many of the same classes anymore to continue our study group but we remained supportive of each other. However, through my struggles I gained strength through managing my mind and pushing through the negativity. I could join organizations such as College Democrats and WSAC to take my mind from the negative thoughts and place my energy into professional organizations. My leadership skills grew this year and I was grateful to build even more into the Trinity community.

“Junior year was a compelling year for myself. This is the year where I was under control of my entire self. I continued in College Democrats and WSAC and the multiple impacts that we have created for student life. This year I grew in my professional studies as a sociologist through my mentors Dr. Bishop, Dr. Moyaedi, and Dr. Goldberg that all pushed me to my full potential. With sleepless nights, long study hours and remaining consistent in routines. I decided this year that my passion was sociology and I would use this knowledge for my further career as an immigration lawyer.

“Senior year is now finally complete. My journey at Trinity Washington University is finally complete but my heart is filled with more than just education. My heart and mind are filled with persistence, love and peace because of my professors, mentors, family, peers and trinity sisters. My accomplishments through my leadership as Blue Class President have been life changing as well as my outreach outside of Trinity through NETWORK organization for social justice. I couldn’t ask for anything more this Senior year.”

Laetitia speaks to board of trustees(Laetitia Kabimanyi addressing Board of Trustees in early May.)

Laetitia Kabimanyi, B.A. Psychology major with a minor in Communications (College of Arts & Sciences):  “My journey through college to graduation has been amazing.  I love my school, it has a special place in my heart. I got attached to my professors and other staff member. I could not have graduated without your help and words cannot express how thankful I am. I have several achievements such as getting inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and Psi Chi, the National Honor Society for Psychology. In addition, I have received President Obama’s Volunteer Gold Service Award, and the Kelly Snider Dunn Greater Good Award. One of the hurdles I overcame is to stop being hard on myself and I learned getting a B in class does not mean I am not intelligent. Trinity’s staff members have inspired me because they want the best for me, they encourage, and support me.  I have been a peer advisor for 3 consecutive years.I will like to think I inspired incoming students because some call me their mentor, and when they are not doing well in their courses they ask me for help. After graduation, I am going to teach at Sidwell Friends, and I plan to go to graduate school. The advice I will give to students is to take advantage of the resources at Trinity, get involve on campus, and do not be afraid to ask for help.


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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: