Trayvon Estey’s thoughts on life could fill volumes. He is an avid reader and learner. As he speaks, there is a yearning in his voice to say more, to know more. He is a man on a journey learning how to reconcile a difficult past.
Trayvon grew up in some of Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods. He witnessed shootings on a regular basis and thought all he could aspire to in life was a future as a drug dealer.
“Those who were older than me or those who I could consider mentors were not good role models,” Trayvon explained. “At the same time . . . there was this voice within me that said, ‘There is more to life than what you see.’”
His sophomore year of high school, Trayvon found and dedicated his life to Jesus Christ. When he began looking for colleges, he focused his search on schools that offered biblical studies as a major.
Many schools he looked at were either focused on academic excellence or founded on Christian principles. Trayvon wanted both.
“I came to realize later that I was looking for a school that pretty much emphasized the integration of faith and learning,” Trayvon said.
He attended a college fair in Chicago hosted by 100 Black Men of Chicago, an organization that helps further the educational opportunities of African-American males in the greater Chicago area. There he met Eric Solomon, a representative from Taylor.
Through Solomon’s stories, Trayvon began to see Taylor as a place where professors set high standards for their students within the context of grace. This was the type of learning environment he’d craved since becoming a Christian. He wanted to grow, to be challenged.
But when Trayvon visited campus, he felt frustrated and overwhelmed at the uncertainty that lay before him. He’s the oldest of four siblings and the first member of his family to attend college. He worried how his absence might affect his family.
“When I was 8 years old, [my step-dad] abused my mom,” Estey said. “That idea kept coming up: ‘What if my sisters had to see that and my little brother as well? I don’t want them to see that.’”
His mom had cut off his step-dad, but he still showed up occasionally. If Trayvon came to Taylor, he wouldn’t be there to protect his younger siblings.
Those concerns weighed heavy on his heart as he stood in Rediger Auditorium during chapel. The chapel band played “Oceans”:
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me . . .
His uncertainty melted. He wouldn’t be alone journeying through an uncharted land.
“Even though I don’t know what lies ahead, the struggles or the pain I will have to face, I’m willing to go through that as long as I know God is with me,” he decided.
After graduating from George Washington High School on the east side of Chicago, Trayvon moved to the cornfields of Upland, Ind. He ran for the track team his freshman year and joined Bible studies on his floor.
Trayvon wanted to understand his new identity as a Christian. He wanted to learn how Scripture handles the reconciliation of the self with regard to sin nature. He gained clarity through one of his philosophy classes, which talked about “shadow self” and “true nature”.
“That shadow self, looking from my personal perspective, is an aspect of self that has been hurt . . . that has been spoon-fed the pain, the suffering that I have experienced in my life,” said Trayvon. “In denying that shadow self, I would be considered half of a person. When I come to terms with [the shadow self] and learn to deal with it, I’m growing in my understanding of self; how to forgive myself and how to forgive others.”
Trayvon lives by the conviction, “You are what you practice.” Instead of feeding his shadow self by harboring bitterness towards those who have harmed him, he feeds his true nature in Christ by choosing forgiveness. While he knows in his time on earth his shadow self will never go away, his true self—his redeemed nature—is stronger.
“My goal for now is to be able to understand philosophical concepts, break down the arguments and teach them to others,” he said. “In working towards that, I hope to be able to teach someone how to discover who they are in regards to every aspect of their lives.
Trayvon is currently the vice-president of Black Student Union (BSU) at Taylor and works for Admissions CREW where he gives tours of Taylor’s campus to prospective students.