PHOTO CAPTION: Trishia Blackwell, (right) is completing a Bachelor of Science in Political Science degree at Ferris State University. The wife and mother of five will continue as a student at Ferris, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration. Pictured with her are (left to right) her husband Warren Blackwell II, son Warren Blackwell III, and daughters Raven and Sophia. (Not pictured, Trishia’s son Austin and stepson Aaron)
The commencement ticket allotment will be just enough to meet the family’s needs when Trishia Blackwell chooses to allow herself a small bit of priority and receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science, graduating magna cum laude, from Ferris State University.
Blackwell is a wife and mother of five who has decided to manage her time and resources by allowing this spring to be graduation season for her biological son, Austin Brown, and her stepson, Aaron Blackwell, who are part of Big Rapids High School’s Class of 2019. By the time fall commencement arrives, Trishia will take that degree in hand, having completed her first semester in Ferris’ Master of Science program in Criminal Justice Administration.
“Considering the path I have taken, in my life and pursuit of education, waiting till that next commencement will be no problem,” Blackwell said. “I grew up in the Rockford and Grand Haven area, the oldest of eight children in a family with strong religious beliefs. The life they were intending for me was one of service and obedience as a mother and homemaker. I knew before I graduated from Grand Haven High School, in 1999, that I wanted and had to get my education, to find a better outcome for myself.”
Trishia’s start in higher education was at Montcalm Community College, in 2002, but as the mother of a toddler son, she found her Criminal Justice studies and other obligations too burdensome to continue her studies.
“I worked for a number of years at various jobs, often finding myself in a position to speak up for my coworkers, and our conditions,” Blackwell said. “I learned a great deal about myself and my desires to advocate for the rights of others during that time, something that remains with me to this day.”
Trishia met and married Warren Blackwell II, a disabled veteran whose home is in Muskegon. She found that her desires to provide for her family and pursue her education could be supported through government assistance, from the federal government and military.
“At Muskegon Community College, I found the encouragement and opportunity to help me succeed, including a work-study position in their financial aid office,” Blackwell said. “I graduated in 2017 with an Associate of Applied Science and a certificate in Correction. It was an honor to accomplish that and earn a spot on the President’s List after a 4.0 GPA semester.”
Trishia arrived on the Ferris campus with a full perspective of the demands as a wife, mother and student in a bustling military family and fresh personal experience, as she had just recovered from the amputation of the big toe on her right foot.
“I really look at this as another learning opportunity, to consider advocacy for the rights of disabled persons,” Blackwell said. “My accommodations and the support offered by Ferris’ Disability Services office has been of great assistance. Not everyone’s experience is the same as mine, and I cannot help but see some of the inequities that are present out in ‘regular society.’ It deepens my desire to be an advocate for expansion of those services.”
Blackwell is also thankful for the support of The Ferris Foundation, as a recipient of its Opportunity Scholarship.
“The process takes into account my desire for academic excellence and has specific consideration for the obstacles an applicant has overcome, in the pursuit of their goals,” Blackwell said. “It is another example of an opportunity coming my way, because of the life I have lived to pursue my goals in college.”
As a mother of children from seven to 18 years old, Trishia finds her determination to succeed in learning an asset, though it calls for an unfailing focus on time management and family planning.
“I am glad to have Warren’s support when he is available, but it can be demanding to stay on schedule and deal with emergent family needs,” Blackwell said. “The Students With Children program at Ferris has been a really special part of our time on campus. I am so thankful for that. The older boys are students, athletes and hold down jobs, so I guess it’s just part of who we are as a family.”
Blackwell’s focus and determination have allowed her to carry a 3.7 grade point average into her capstone project for her degree, to be completed in the summer semester. Beyond meeting final coursework for her degree, Trishia participates in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and is vice president of the Student Parent Association.
“it’s just another opportunity to support others, to be a mentor,” Blackwell said. “I also give of my time to the Family Promise program in Muskegon Heights. Area churches let homeless families stay in their buildings, while they get help making the transition with residence and job assistance. I have had homelessness in my life, so I volunteer, or stay as an overnight host because I want the families to know that they are important, very deserving of our help.”
That desire to assist and advocate found Trishia with choices as she prepares for her post-graduate studies.
“I know that my abilities to advocate would be substantial if I went to law school, and some offers have come my way,” Blackwell said. “Family commitments are too important to me to take up that direction. Ferris’ Criminal Justice Administration program will be a strong complement to my intentions to work on changes for the disabled and disadvantaged, at the policy level. I know that all of this is a chase for the title to do the kind of good that I feel needs to get done.”
As Aaron and Austin approach their graduation, Trishia can take a moment to pause and consider her graduation to come, which will make her the first in her family to earn a post-secondary degree, though that is most important to her husband and children.
“All that I learned as a woman and mother has been a great help to me in college, it grounded me and allowed me to keep a strong focus on my goals,” Blackwell said. “I have sacrificed in many ways and worked hard to get to this place and opportunity. I hope it serves as a good example to my children. I am proud that Aaron and Austin are both graduating and that they both will continue their education at Muskegon Community College. I just want all my children to learn and be thinkers, to be determined to achieve and to give back to others.”