Facebook pixel DeClue’s Painful Journey Lays Foundation for Success

DeClue’s Painful Journey Lays Foundation for Success

St. Louis Community College will celebrate commencement Saturday, May 21, at Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University, marking both small and monumental accomplishments for graduating students. There are as many stories as there are graduates, and with this special series, we celebrate all of our 2022 graduates with stories about five students who demonstrate in their own way what it takes to earn a degree. The fourth story is below; a new story will publish each day the week of May 16-20, leading up to the commencement ceremony.

Trisha DeClueDifficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. That’s certainly true for Trisha DeClue. 

DeClue, 40, has experienced more than her fair share of challenges. Despite the difficult road she’s traveled, she’s preparing to celebrate a major milestone -- the completion of her associate degree in behavioral health support from St. Louis Community College. 

For DeClue, this achievement is especially sweet because it’s the first time she will ever walk across a commencement stage. 

The Accident

At 17, DeClue’s life was forever changed when her car was struck head-on by a drunk driver. DeClue sustained major injuries from that accident, including a broken neck, broken feet, broken bones in her face and a brain bleed. She spent several months in the hospital before she was released to continue her recovery at home. 

“They said I was ‘lucky’ to have survived the accident,” she said. “My recovery was a long and painful process, emotionally and physically.” 

DeClue worked hard to recover. Despite not graduating from high school, she successfully completed her GED in 2000.  A few years later, she married her husband, Josh, and the couple started a family. 

While she was proud to be a wife and mother, she had lingering health issues from the accident. To cope with the pain, she turned to prescription medication and alcohol. Unfortunately, one thing led to another and DeClue’s coping mechanisms spiraled into an addiction. 

Rock Bottom

In the years that followed, DeClue spent time in and out of rehab centers. At her lowest point, she suffered a setback that ultimately led her to pursue her degree at STLCC, taking classes at the Wildwood campus. 

“I got arrested for drunk driving,” she said. “While it was a dark time in my life, it was the wakeup call I needed to get my life back on track.”

The catalyst, she said, was the encouragement she received from an unexpected person – the detective assigned to her case.

“He told me that my life was worth something and that I had the power to make a change,” she said. “So that’s exactly what I set out to do.”

Passion to Profession

Trisha with BHS studentsAfter her arrest, DeClue made a commitment to return to the classroom. While her initial interest was in addiction studies, she switched to behavioral health support. 

“I understand the struggles families go through when someone they love is suffering from mental health issues,” she said, “so I thought that if I could help myself, I could also help others.” 

DeClue ended up gaining more than she expected from the program. 

“Through my classes, I not only learned the skills needed to work as a community support specialist, but I also gained confidence, a sense of belonging and a group of friends,” she said. 

Jenna Mueller, behavioral health support program coordinator, is one of those friends. Mueller described DeClue as a woman of “stunning substance” and one who has a bright future ahead of her.

“A returning student, Trisha entered the program wanting to help others and make a difference,” Mueller said. “Her journey with behavioral health support was a challenging one, wrought with learning a face-to-face job in the time of COVID, plus health issues and other obstacles. These challenges put her behind in her practicum, but they didn’t stop her from finishing what she set out to achieve. In fact, there’s already a job waiting for her with her dream company when she graduates. Throughout her journey at STLCC, I have witnessed incredible courage, tenacity and fortitude in Trisha, and I’m so proud of her.”

Next Steps

After graduation, DeClue intends to work as a community support specialist, assisting young adults who are struggling with addiction. 

“Before I started this program, I thought my personal struggles would hinder my ability to excel in a mental health role,” she said. “Through the program, however, I’ve come to realize that I have knowledge and expertise to share. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re able to leverage your experiences to help others.”

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