Tre is a tall man with a big smile, a strong handshake, and a larger-than-life personality. We met for coffee, found a sunny spot, and talked about his story. Tre grew up in West Michigan in a rough neighborhood. He experienced and witnessed multiple traumas in his childhood: heexperienced abuse, his family members and friends struggled with addiction, he witnessed the deaths of multiple people in his life, and many of his friends and family went to prison.

While Tre was growing up, he said in his neighborhood the only two choices in life were death or prison. The only way you could make a living was to earn your money illegally, so that’s what most people did. “I had to do things I wasn’t proud of.” Tre even worked in a jail where people he knew were serving time.

“I didn’t understand, until college, that you could have a better life. Never. When I got there, I saw all these people pursuing careers, travelling all over the world… To some people that isn’t a big deal, but to me it was a whole other world.”

Tre found a way to overcome his circumstances. He got a college education, a steady job, and he was able to take care of his family. He had the support of multiple people: his grandmother, a friendly state trooper, and a social worker who spent extra time to care for Tre and help him work through his issues. He also has found that his faith played a huge role in his healing and path towards resilience.

As an adult, Tre still struggles with the effects of his ACEs, but he would tell you not to use your circumstances as an excuse. Sometimes things feel insurmountable, but don’t limit yourself. You can prevail through adverse experiences. Everybody has struggles, but it’s what we do with them that makes a difference in our own lives.

Tre believes that his childhood trauma, though horrible, made him who he is today. And he hopes that he can help give his own children the tools to be able to surmount any circumstance.

“You want your kids to have a better life than you did, but you also let them know that it isn’t easy. You say, ‘We’re here to help and guide, but one day Mom and Dad will be gone, and you’ll have to fend for yourself.’”

Tre knows that his childhood trauma doesn’t define him. He says, “Here I am, all the scratches and bruises… you’d look at me, and you’d never know what I’ve been through.” Tre has been able to rise above and triumph over his struggles by becoming a Peer Support Specialist, advocating for and supporting others who struggle with mental illness and fighting to break down the stigma of those with mental illness. He continues to thrive by working through therapy and with the support of his wife, family, and a few close friends.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Tre!