Nate Trotman ’18 remembers the day he left Dorchester for his freshman year at the College of the Holy Cross. He packed his car to the brim with clothes, textbooks, and crates of food. Stepping into the driver’s seat, Nate took one last look at what he used to call home. Then, it hit him. Not the nostalgia or the August sun. Rather, he had forgotten something: Somebody to help him move in.
A couple family members had offered their assistance a few months prior. But, on the day of his big move, some unexpected wrinkles to their schedules left Nate all alone.
Well, not quite. He knew someone who might help.
A few people, actually. He took out his phone and began dialing the familiar 617 digits. Within the hour, a few of his classmates from Catholic Memorial School arrived ready to lend a hand.
“I knew that I could call my best friends from my class,” explained Nate.
“They helped move me in to Holy Cross when a few of my family members couldn’t. If that’s not brotherhood, then I don’t know what is.”
Climbing up and down Worcester’s steep hills, Nate and his former classmates shared memories from their time together on Baker Street to lighten the humidity. They reminisced on speech and debate tournaments, cross country meets, and conversations with old teachers.
The memories flooded Nate with every unpacked crate; each one producing its own time capsule. Aside from the old trophies and lab reports that littered their confines, one relic stuck out in particular—a model skull made from the CM innovation lab.
Mr. Patrick Murray, the Director of Innovation at CM, gave Nate the skull as a parting gift before graduation. A biology-whiz, everyone on campus knew Nate’s affinity for medicine and anatomy. Cradling the skull with two hands, Nate put it on top of his bookshelf.
He dreamed of Med-School when he first applied to Holy Cross. But, looking at the skull, he recalled a time when his dream sounded crazy. Sure, he loved science at a young age. But, growing up in a fiscally limited household, he thought his dreams could take him only so far.
His mentors, CM faculty members Mr. Gabe Verdaguer and Mr. Jack O’Keefe, thought differently. Together, they motivated Nate to navigate past the pitfalls of his own false narrative. Their encouragement inspired Nate to embrace and celebrate his roots instead of falling back on them. By his senior year, Nate felt empowered enough to help start the Knights of the Round Table multi-cultural club. From this, Nate began to realize his true potential. In that moment, a school like Holy Cross sounded not-so-crazy after all.
Before graduating high school, Nate captained the varsity cross-country team, served as a peer minister, and earned two trips to Nationals while on the school’s speech and debate team. Looking back on those achievements, Nate understands how the CM community refused to let his talents go to waste.
“The reason why I was able to go on all those travel trips for forensics was because of those donors,” said Nate.
“Personally, I know that I will give back [to CM] because I saw, firsthand, the impact that each dollar had.”
Back in his dorm, Nate put the skull aside and allowed the moment to sink in. If the opportunities afforded through financial aid kept his dream alive, then his acceptance to Holy Cross validated it even more.
“I’ve always had the ambition to be a doctor. Coming from Dorchester, I’ve always been hungry for more,” Nate recalled.
“But, CM helped me harness that hunger so that I could be more.”
In his second semester at Holy Cross, that hunger remains the same. When Nate arrived on campus, he decided to apply to UMass’ Power of Presence hospital program—a competitive service program reserved for upperclassmen studying medicine at Holy Cross.
Once a week, student volunteers sit with patients awaiting surgery at UMass Memorial Hospital. These patients arrive at the hospital with no family or friends to keep them company. So, the student volunteers provide whatever hospitality possible. Typically, the program considers only upperclassmen applicants for these service opportunities. But, when Nate learned this, he never wavered.
“When they told me I couldn’t do it, that instantly lit a fire underneath me,” said Nate.
An active member of Holy Cross’ Caribbean African Student Assembly at the time, Nate believed that he belonged with the upperclassmen. He felt confident enough to advocate for his own spot in the program. So, instead of taking “no,” for an answer, Nate researched the times and locations of Power of Presence meetings. He attended each one and networked with the program coordinator.
The program coordinator took notice. He knew that Nate had enrolled in pre-Med courses and that he had expressed a sincere interest in serving others in the medical field. In less than five months, Nate received an email from the program director, Dante Che. Dante admired his persistence and passion for medicine. So, the program invited Nate to join the upperclassmen as an official member.
“He shoots me texts all the time,” said Dante.
“As a freshman, he’s been on top of everything. A hospital is a hectic environment and he’s handled it incredibly well.”
Today, Nate calls himself the youngest, and proudest, member of Holy Cross’ Power of Presence program. Although many labs and lecture halls sit between him and wearing a white jacket, Nate sees his worth. He knows how to get where he wants to be, which, to him, makes the question a matter of “when” and not “if” he arrives.
Every step forward might involve its fair share of detours. But, hey, he’s been there before. And, whether it’s finding a way to move into a new dorm or funding a trip to a speech and debate tournament, he’s refused to let that detour stay in the way forever.
After all, support he needs may just be a quick dial away.