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    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine. 

    At 16 years old, Trinity Presley didn’t have time for a sweet 16 birthday party. She couldn’t bob up and down in the stands on Friday nights, cheering on her Central High School football team. If she wasn’t in school, she was caring for her mother, Demetria Pierce, who, despite being in her 40s, was enduring her second difficult bout with breast cancer.

    Each morning, Presley would wake at 5:45 and arrange her mother’s nightstand for the day — Sprite, four pieces of bread, cold washcloths, a bag of ice and some peppermints. She’d clean the bedside wastebasket that was often filled with vomit, a side effect of ongoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She’d then head to school, return home and restock the nightstand, wash the sheets, help her mom into the shower, cook dinner for herself and complete her homework. (It’s no wonder Presley aced her nursing classes at Central.) “It’s my mom. I’m not going to leave her hanging,” Presley says. “Nobody wants their mom to be sick. Nobody wants them to be lonely. Nobody wants their mom to feel like you’re not there for them.”

    Now, three days before Presley is set to graduate from Central, Pierce is in remission and sitting beside her daughter. “God blessed me with her,” Pierce says, tears collecting in her eyes. Pierce says they’ve always been close, especially since she divorced Presley’s father when her daughter was still in diapers. Now she’s bracing to send her daughter 650 miles away so that she can attend Norfolk State University in Virginia, to pursue a psychology degree. “I want her to spread her wings and fly,” Pierce says, “but I’m going to miss her.”

    Presley says her mom’s cancer, which was first detected when Presley was about nine, has “sometimes affected me in school,” but college was always in her plans. Pierce knew her daughter could use extra support in reaching that goal, so when Presley was in eighth grade, she signed her up for a Louisville Urban League program called Project Ready. The weekly get-together for teens assists them with college applications and scholarships. This year, 10 seniors in the program secured $700,000 in financial aid. Pierce says, “When Trinity first started (Project Ready), she might be in the corner and no one would know if she was there or not. Now if she isn’t there, they know she’s not there. Her presence is known.”

    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine. Read more.

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