A graduating senior from the only high school in Rusk, Texas, has become the first Black person to graduate at the top of the class as valedictorian.
Trinity Asberry’s grandmother was the first to suggest she’d made history at Rusk High School.
“The first thing I did when I found out is I called all my family members, ‘Hey I’m valedictorian!’ ” she remembered, before saying, “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,”
Asberry engaged her school’s administration, teachers, and even a local newspaper to dig through the city and school’s archive to verify her history-making accomplishment. However, many became frustrated because the records were not well maintained, and the information was not easily discovered.
The hard-working scholar said, “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.”
The student became resourceful and did her own research, talking “with community members and alumni from Rush HS.” The family and school also received confirmation of the historical moment from the board of educators and then she was able to declare she was “the first and I was really excited for that.”
Many people in the community were proud of her. Her father, George Andrew Asberry said, “That feeling was like ‘Wow you’re special, I mean you’re the first in Rusk’ … that’s history. I’m so proud of her and I probably tell her 100 times.”
Asberry hopes her legacy is one of inspiration, motivating students coming after 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,” Asberry 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 are so many people that can strive for more and they choose not to because they don’t believe they can.” She added that she’s excited to see their mindset “is kind of shifting.”
The valedictorian said, “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.”
Asberry has worked hard for this honor, but not without some trials and tribulations. The teenager lost her mom when she was in elementary school and forged through some difficult school years without having her mother in her life.
Her father said, “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 on the back burner and made sure she had everything she needed.”
Asberry said, “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.”
“And I know that I’ll have help,” she continued. “My family will be there if I run into something that I can’t take on myself.”
Her dad concurs. He lists her support system, saying, “She had me, her grandmother, her aunt, and her teachers – all of those people were instrumental for helping her to get where she is.”
In addition to her family, there were particular teachers who made a significant impact on her life.
Gerald Hawkins from the Anatomy and Physiology Dual Credit class, doted on Asberry, marveling at her ability to juggle her academics and extracurricular life.
In addition to being a top-of-the-line scholar, she participated on the basketball team, cheer, student council, softball and track. She also served on the homecoming court along with her escort Jorryn Anderson.
“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.”
Asberry plans to attend Texas Southern University in the fall where she will join the university’s pre-nursing program.
After two years, she wants to transfer to the University of Houston and complete a bachelor of science in nursing. She is unsure about her steps after that, which could include medical school studies or a career in cosmetic nursing.