Trey Cook

Piedmont Technical College

"We all want to be successful. That takes more than just believing in your dreams -- it takes hard work."

I was held back in ninth grade after missing too many days of school, which started me on a downward spiral, hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting in trouble. In my mind, I had a plan: once I turned 17 I would get my GED, go to technical college and have my associate’s degree before any of my peers had even graduated high school. This was the logic I used to justify dropping out of high school. I did get my GED, but it stopped there. I worked in the family business for seven years before I finally enrolled at Piedmont Tech. This is the story of how I changed my path.

 

How did you find your way to Piedmont Tech? 

It started with working out. Prior to that, I didn’t really have much confidence. I was just playing video games and hanging out. I wasn’t in school, wasn’t going to church, wasn’t a part of a gym. I had always wanted to go to school, but after dropping out, it was like, “Can I really do this or am I just going to quit again?”

I started to see my body change as I worked out, which gave me a new perspective on what I could accomplish by sticking to something. People started saying, “Trey, you look great. I’m proud of you.” As I started to see progress, I began to reassess the dreams I had put on pause. I started at Piedmont with three classes. Starting was the biggest step.

 

What have you overcome in your life? 

When I was in high school, I started messing around and getting into trouble with my buddies. It was fun at the time, but eventually high school ends and those friends move on to other things and places. When you’re left doing that same stuff by yourself it becomes a cycle you get stuck in — and it’s hard to pull out of that. It keeps you from taking the next step in life. Years go by and you’re working a part-time job, killing time and not really progressing. You start to lose the confidence that you can be someone. You start to doubt that your dreams are going to come true. As kids we are always told, “If you dream it, it will come true.” When you lose confidence in yourself, you let those things slip away.

 

What do you think is a misperception people have about technical college? 

I think the major stereotype and misconception about technical college is you’re not going to have a “college experience.” That may be true if you only do online classes and never make an effort to get involved. I got involved in the ambassador program, joined the inter-council club, helped out with job fairs and helped out with multiple voter registration drives. In doing so, I met tons of people and made a lot of friends. 

 

How does it feel to be graduating? 

It feels great. While you’re chipping away at your program, time goes by so fast. While you’re in it, you know what you’re working toward, but it doesn’t seem real. You know you’re headed in the right direction. People are proud of you. When you arrive, it just feels incredible. 

 

What advice do you have for someone who might be considering their next steps in life? 

We all like to play hard, but you can work hard and you can play hard and still set yourself up for a future in which you’ve got career, you’re making money, you’re able to have that nice car, you’re able to have that nice home, you feel good about yourself and you’ve succeeded at being independent. Getting set up in your own life makes it more likely you’ll find that soulmate that you always dreamed about and have a healthy, solid relationship. 

Dreams don’t just magically come true. Your future will slip away if you don’t keep chipping away at it. We all want to be successful. That takes more than just believing in your dreams — it takes hard work. Only you can make that happen.