Trinity Brock is considered the college student who is at risk of not completing a degree. She is a first-generation (parents did not complete a Bachelor’s degree) and low-income student, and only 20 years old and living on her own while working full-time and carrying a full load of classes at Spoon River College.
Brock also has a trauma-filled past and struggles to stay mentally healthy. Born in Arkansas, she was brought to Illinois when she was six years old by her grandmother. Her father was never in the picture and her mother lacked the ability to provide a healthy and nurturing home life. Brock was just 4 when she experienced sexual abuse for the first time. When she was 12 and it happened for a fourth time, she spoke out.
“I tried to tell another family member, but they didn’t believe me and it got swept under the rug, so after that I didn’t say anything,” Brock said. In eighth grade she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and spent almost three weeks in a psychiatric ward.
At the end of her freshman year of high school, she was credit deficient, behaving badly, and “didn’t like authority.” High school officials expelled her, and she enrolled at Royals Academy in Carthage, an alternative program designed for students with a variety of needs.
At 16 she traveled to Texas with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, but when Brock and the boyfriend couldn’t get along, she was the one left behind. Through the efforts of her therapist, her grandmother, and Texas CPS, she made her way back to Illinois, enrolling once again at Royals and finally completing her graduation requirements.
Brock said Royals’ teacher Kim Featherlin had a life-changing impact on her. “I probably would not have finished if it hadn’t been for her. She supported me in every way possible, even outside of class. She cared, and that’s what I needed. Royals is a great school—alternative schools are more trauma aware—and the teachers take pride in it.”
In 2020, Brock enrolled at Spoon River College. She joined the TRIO Student Support Services program, a federally funded program specifically designed to support at risk students. She takes advantage of the one-on-one tutoring and the workshops offered to TRIO students. She also meets regularly with TRIO director Jill Olson and TRIO advisor Abby Beck.
“Having a support system is a big thing for me; I’ve never had one before, and it’s vital,” Brock said. “I can go to Miss Abby and Miss Jill for anything, even just to talk. Math teacher Shelli Stuart has also been a big part of my support system here.”
Despite working full-time, attending school full-time, and working to stay mentally healthy through therapy, Brock is making time to experience college life. She serves as president of the Student Government Association and has joined the Speech and Debate team. During Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerich’s visit to the college in September, Brock was one of three students who volunteered to share their stories during a discussion of college affordability, and she spoke quietly but candidly about her situation.
Brock is working towards her associate degree with an anticipated graduation date of fall 2022. She plans to transfer to WIU, although she’s still debating what her major will be. “At first I wanted to do social work, to help other kids escape what I went through, but I also find myself being drawn to education. I feel it will be one of those two things.”
While it’s normal for a college student to be unsure of a career path, Brock says it bothers her to not have a solid plan. “I don’t like being undecided. It puts me on edge.”
Brock also says she finds it hard to relax and often feels out of place. Besides the depression and anxiety, she was recently diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar disorder. She doesn’t like the way the medications make her feel, but she also doesn’t do well without them. She suffers from panic attacks, becomes overstimulated, and sometimes has to leave the classroom. “It becomes too much. I can hear the papers shuffling and the pens clicking.”
Despite it all, Brock is determined to build a better future for herself. She loves her job at Wesley Village and works hard at her college studies, even though she says her schedule is often mentally and physically exhausting. “Sometimes, I just have to cry it out.”
It takes courage to share such a personal story, but Brock feels it’s important to be transparent about her mental health and the sexual abuse she experienced. “I want others who are also struggling, no matter what their situation is, to know that they are not alone. I want to give them hope that they can achieve what they want to achieve.”
ROYALS (Regional Office Youth Alternative Learning Services) Safe Schools and Alternative Programs are offered through the Regional Office of Education #26. For more information call 309-575-3226 or visit their webpage at https://www.roe26.net/.
For those who may be struggling with their mental health or are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, please reach out. WIRC-CAA Hotline – (309) 837-5555; Fulton-Mason Crisis Service – 309-647-8311; Quanada Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255); National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255).