Treston Cook-Lincoln was the first member of his family to attend college, but financial struggles made adjusting to campus life at University of North Texas difficult. “I didn’t know anything about college or financial aid at that point, and by the end of my first semester, I was broke,” Treston said. “My mom can only do so much, and my father passed away when I was young, so I didn’t have all the resources that a lot of people do.”
The next semester, Treston got a job at a call center and even worked extra hours. But too many shifts led him to skip a few classes, and by the end of the spring semester his grades were suffering. With the help of kind family friends, Thomas McCaleb and Lesley Regalado, Treston got his finances in order and switched to a community college, Dallas College Brookhaven Campus. After earning his associate degree from Brookhaven, he completed his bachelor’s in Insurance and Risk Management from the University of Houston-Downtown.
Lesley and Thomas continued to mentor Treston, helping him with financial literacy, career planning and occasionally with homework during his undergraduate years. After he graduated, they also helped him find a job as a talent acquisition specialist and encouraged him to pursue a master’s degree. “They really took me under their wings. Lesley’s a professor and a career coach, and she encouraged me to think about a master’s that would help balance out my business degree and set me up for leadership in the future,” he said.
Both Lesley and Thomas had earned their master’s degrees in Instructional Technology through The University of Alabama’s affordable and flexible online degree program, so they encouraged him to consider UA’s online master’s offerings. “And I wanted something I was interested in as well,” he said. All of these criteria led Treston to select the 100% online Master of Arts in Communication Studies with a specialization in Organizational Leadership available from UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. Once in the program, he received a scholarship through the McNair Scholars program.
Along with starting his master’s online, Treston began working as a program support specialist where he mentors young men (many of whom are fellow first-generation or DACA students) as they navigate the demands of college at Brookhaven. He said the master’s program from UA has equipped him to better communicate with and support these students. “The coursework helped me understand on a deeper level how to communicate with different people and even across different cultures that may be present. It also taught me how to meet my students where they are and help bring them along to their next steps, whatever those steps are for each individual person.”
His mentees in the Brookhaven program aren’t the only ones benefitting from all Treston has learned in the program. He has six sisters that he looks out for, and he has encouraged many of his friends to pursue higher education so they can expand their potential. Additionally, he and Thomas are both members of Kappa Alphi Psi, and they mentor many youth in their area through the fraternity’s Guide Right program.
As Treston pays forward the mentorship he received from Lesley and Thomas to others, this Lone Star State native has learned that stars shine brighter in a cluster, and he’s stayed the course to advance his potential. As of May 2020, at age 27, this first-generation college student that struggled during his freshman year is a proud master’s graduate of The University of Alabama with a promising future ahead of him. He’s slated to teach college sociology courses at Brookhaven in Spring 2021. Treston looks forward to earning a doctorate related to instructional design so that he can continue to expand his career potential while meeting the growing market demand for web-based classes (both corporate onboarding and educational needs).
“Getting my master’s has opened a lot of doors for me and exposed me to greater career possibilities. It’s given me more confidence as a young Black professional, and I’m glad I capitalized on the opportunity when I did.”
Published: September 5th, 2020