Chavonne is pulling double duty.
A mother of two grade-school boys, she began taking college courses this semester while making sure her sons stay academically focused and active in school sports.
She also is a full-time employee with a security firm, involved in the church and a single mother.
She and Trinity Washington University are a perfect fit.
"I heard it was a good school from several women who went there," said the 29-year-old D.C. native. "My best friend graduated from Trinity years ago. So I did my research and Trinity was my first pick."
Chavonne and Patricia McGuire are certainly on the same page.
The Roman Catholic school, now coed, was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1897 with a "great historic mission to educate women and prepare them for life," Ms. McGuire said in a recent interview.
Today, D.C. residents make up more than half of the student population, more than any other private university or college in the nation.
That fact is no mere coincidence, either.
While Trinity always contended with other elite private women's schools on the East Coast, such as Bryn Mawr and Wellesley, Ms. McGuire deliberately began recruiting D.C. students of color and other urban learners after she took the helm in 1989, and those recruitment efforts, as she pointed out, are paying dividends.
When education reformers and social service activists cast their sites on struggling populations east of the Anacostia River, Trinity itself was recruited to offer classes for underserved residents at The ARC on Mississippi Avenue Southeast, where Chavonne and other students are challenged not just academically but also to think and focus about where they are headed in life.
"The campus on Mississippi Avenue is definitely convenient," said Chavonne, a black woman who is taking classes in human behavior and learning about herself as well as her interrelationships.
"Trinity is teaching women to look at the big pictures of life regardless of your personal issues and your personal environment, because life happens," she said.
"Trinity empowers you. It's a holistic educational environment with added health and social services resources.
Trinity is scheduled to break ground on a $40 million, state-of-the-art academic center in mid-2014.
The Trinity Academic Center, planned as a LEED-certified building, will feature classrooms and top-flight instructional technologies, as well as biology, chemistry, nursing and health care profession laboratories.
The benefactors are numerous, including business leader Joan Payden, Trinity class of 1953, who donated $10 million for the planned 80,000-square-foot center. Founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Payden & Rygel private investment firm, Ms. Payden gives to other groups, too, and her giveback to her alma mater will help Trinity build its first new academic building since 1963.
For sure, Chavonne plans to be one of the first beneficiaries of the Trinity Academic Center.
"Trinity faculty is helping me to dream, and my dream is to get a degree in health and social sciences and start a nonprofit to empower young girls — to remind them how smart, beautiful and self-reliant they are and can be," she said.
"God's already instilled us," said Chavonne. "Sometimes we need a little push as a reminder."
Praise the Lord that Trinity keeps on pushing Chavonne and countless other women to prepare them for life.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
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