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Rusk High student makes history as her school's first Black valedictorian

"If you don't see it, you can make it happen, you always have the choice for it to be you," 2022 Rusk High School valedictorian Trinity Asberry said.

RUSK, Texas — For the past four years, Trinity Asberry has worked hard to accomplish her goal of being first in her class but she never knew she would also make history as the first Black valedictorian at Rusk High School.

"The first thing I did when I found out is I called all my family members, 'hey I'm valedictorian!' My grandma told me, 'hey I think you might have made history, I've been here a long time and I've never heard that happen," Trinity said.

Trinity began researching the history of Rusk High School but was met with uncertainty from faculty members and local newspapers who couldn't provide her with the information she was searching for.

"They didn't have the resources to tell me that information. So we checked with the NAACP and they couldn't find that information as well so we did a lot of research with community members and alumni from Rush HS," she said. "We were able to find out I was the first and I was really excited for that."

After receiving double confirmation from the Board of Educators and other sources, Trinity's dad, George Andrew Asberry said he's proud of his daughter's historic accomplishment. 

"That feeling was like wow you're special, I mean you're the first in Rusk … that's history," George Asberry said. "I'm so proud of her and I probably tell her a 100 times."

Trinity has overcome many challenges both academically and personally. Her mother died when Trinity was in elementary school. 

"I feel like moving forward in my future I'll know that whatever comes my way I'll be able to take it on because I've done so much under the circumstances already," Trinity said. "And I know that I'll have help, that my family will be there if I run into something that I can't take on myself."

Credit: Trinity Asberry
Trinity and her mom.

George Asberry said Trinity's mother built a foundation with their daughter and after she passed away, he received the torch. He tried to maintain that foundation and added to it as Trinity grew up. 

"When Trinity lost her mom, I thought that the best thing I could do was make her situation comfortable and that's what I did. I made her first priority, I put my personal life in the back burner and made sure she had everything she needed," he said. "She had me, her grandmother, her aunt, and her teachers - all of those people were instrumental for helping her to get where she is."

Trinity rarely struggled in academics so the teachers who influenced her the most were the ones who had an impact in her personal life.

"Mrs. Turlington was my third grade teacher and the first teacher I had after my mom passed. She was actually a teacher who also taught my mom so having her was actually very special. Ms. Taylor was a really outgoing and bubbly teacher where you could express yourself in a safe place," Trinity said. "You could talk about anything and she listened and helped you. And Dr. Hawkins, he was the first Black teacher I've had and that was very special because it was the first time I was in a classroom in which someone looked like me."

Anatomy and Physiology Dual Credit teacher Dr. Gerald Hawkins said from the beginning, Trinity was a rare student who excelled academically while she participated in extracurricular activities like basketball, cheer, student council, softball and track along with serving on the homecoming court.

"I think losing her mom has motivated Trinity at a young age. It has helped her reach the stars to make her mom proud," Hawkins said. "Truly a historical moment that needs to be celebrated. I think for minority students to see this historical moment happen will help motivate them to succeed academically if they put their minds and put in the work, they can also accomplish this."

As the first Black valedictorian, Trinity hopes to set an example for younger students who look up to her.

"I feel like a lot more students will feel like it's not a goal out of reach for them because that's something you can do no matter what skin color you are, it's achievable," Trinity said. "I was always kind of singled out in advanced courses and I'll look around, it'll only be me or another Black student. That's kind of sad that it's only us because there is so many people that can strive for more and they choose not to because they don't believe they can. I'm excited that (their mindset) is kind of shifting."

To continue inspiring the next generation, Trinity is trying to plan an event for younger girls about to go into high school.

"There have been a lot of younger girls who have reached out to talk to me. A lot of moms want me to talk to their daughters before I leave and tell them they can do it too," Trinity said.

Credit: Trinity Asberry
Trinity and George Andrew Asberry.

Trinity is looking forward to her future and is setting more goals. She will attend Texas Southern University for two years and start in the university's pre-nursing program. 

She then wants to transfer to the University of Houston and complete a bachelor of science in nurse. Once that degree is earned, she said she decide between medical school or starting a career in cosmetic nursing.

No matter what Trinity pursues in her life, her dad knows she is capable of reaching any goal as long as she stays focused.

"I just want her to reach all of her dreams, her goals, all the things she wants to do," he said. 

Hawkins said it was special that Trinity thought of him when she found out about getting her scholarship from Texas Southern University. 

"I feel my pathway, journey, and career has been worth it, to inspire my students, especially Trinity was all worth it," Hawkins said. "Trinity is a humble, responsible, respectful young woman and I think those characteristics will take her a long way in life. In the small time I was part of her journey, I hope I made a difference."

Credit: Trinity Asberry
Trinity will be attending Texas Southern University.

Trinity can't wait to see what the next chapter in her life brings but in the meantime she will continue to inspire others to make their dreams a reality.

"Being the first. If you don't see it, you can make it happen, you always have the choice for it to be you. Just because it hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it can't. If it's something you want to see, you make it happen and you can make the change," she said.

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