Sarah Trembley '01, life looked pretty bleak when, at age 15,
she became pregnant and dropped out of high school to raise her
baby daughter Jasmine. No one in her family had ever been to college;
as a teenage unwed mother, she didn't expect to buck that trend.
After the birth of her second child, Savannah, two years later,
she realized that if she was to provide a good life for her children,
she would need to continue her education.
This year, Trembley
is finishing veterinary school at Michigan State University. She
not only loves animals, but has a passion for veterinary pathology
and plans to do postdoctoral work in that field next year. Veterinary
pathology, according to Trembley, has enormous implications for
public health worldwide. "Most human diseases are zoonotic, that
is, animal based," Trembley said. "Emerging diseases such as SARS,
monkey pox, and the flu we usually get, are believed to have been
contracted from animals. Bioterrorism also involves the threat
of many animal-based diseases."
Trembley might not
be where she is today without the support of the Frances Perkins
(FP) program at Mount Holyoke. Now in its twenty-fifth year, the
program was named for 1902 alumna Frances Perkins, a lifelong
champion of women's and children's rights, who became secretary
of labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The program provides opportunities
for nontraditional- age women to attend college later in their
lives. After receiving her G.E.D., Trembley attended Springfield
Technical Community College (STCC). With a nearly perfect GPA,
in 1998 she earned an associate's degree and a host of impressive
academic honors. She wanted to transfer to a four-year institution,
and one of her STCC professors suggested that she apply to the
Starting out at Mount
Holyoke was not easy, said Trembley. With two young children and
a job as a cashier at a gas station in Holyoke, she barely had
time to sleep. "First semester was overwhelming," she recalled.
"I did horribly. There were no more multiple-choice tests. Writing
was really hard for me." She received crucial support from the
FP staff, fellow students, and professors. She recalled the words
of Mark McMenamin, professor of geology and chair of the earth
and environment department: "You can do this! Don't ever let anyone
tell you you can't."
in biology and minored in geology. "MHC prepared me well," she
said. "I learned to think for myself, look up things on my own.
I excelled in the basic science classes at vet school. The College
and FP program had to ability to push you slowly. My honors thesis
started out as a small, three-credit project. My advisers said,
'Maybe you could turn this into something bigger.' They were supportive;
they believed in me."
The MHC community
supported not only Trembley's academic work, but also her family.
"I was amazed by how everyone welcomed my kids with open arms,"
Trembley said. "It was wonderful. I am still so thankful for that."
Looking back on her
Mount Holyoke experience, Trembley is particularly struck by the
College's acceptance of diversity. "When I first got to Mount
Holyoke, I was concerned I wouldn't fit in. Pretty soon I realized
that no one looked down on me because of my background. There
were women from all over, every size, shape, and color. People's
expectations of me were the same as for the other students."
FP director Kay Althoff
takes great pride in students like Trembley. For her, they represent
how dramatically the program affects individual lives. "I hope
other young mothers learn about her and realize there is hope,"