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15-year-old actress Trinitee Stokes is about to become Emerson’s youngest student

Trinitee Stokes was accepted to Emerson College in March. At 15, she'll be the school's youngest student ever.
Trinitee Stokes was accepted to Emerson College in March. At 15, she'll be the school's youngest student ever.Derek Palmer

Trinitee Stokes is a lot like any other kid about to go off to Emerson College. She posts Instagram videos of herself singing Dolly Parton songs. She loves trying out new makeup looks. She went to prom this June, masked, in a glittery pink dress.

But one thing sets her apart from everyone else in the incoming freshmen class: She’s 15.

Stokes, an actress who has had starring roles in Disney Channel’s “K.C. Undercover” (alongside Zendaya) and ABC’s “Mixed-ish,” will be the youngest student to ever be accepted or enroll at Emerson when she starts classes this fall.

Opting for a virtual semester to accommodate a potentially busy filming schedule on the West Coast, Stokes plans to major in political communication with a minor in public diplomacy, taking most of her classes at 5 a.m. — accounting for the time difference — to manage “the juggling session” between work and academics.

“I don’t plan on leaving one for the other,” she said by phone this week. “I plan on figuring out a way to do both.”

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While enrolled at Sky Mountain Charter School in Placerville, Calif., Stokes opted for its home-based program, which gave her time to be on set. Ever the academic achiever, she doubled up on classes during the pandemic because “there was nothing else to do,” she said in an interview with the Globe.

Last fall, her educational specialist at the charter school told her she had enough credits to graduate.

“She was like, ‘We can’t keep you here. You need to figure out what you’re going to do,’” Stokes said. “I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to go to college.’” She was accepted at Emerson in March.

Stokes’s parents were among the first in their families to go to college, so no matter her career trajectory, “college was happening” for her, she said. Though she already boasts a resume that would be impressive for an adult, much less a teenager who can’t yet drive herself to work, she is eager to begin her political studies.

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“I want to learn. I’m a learner,” she said.

After hearing about Emerson from a friend, she became enamored with the small liberal arts college. The main draws, she said, were its class sizes, the strong alumni network, and the “loving community” of staff who have eased her transition.

“Everyone that goes to Emerson really is someone who goes to Emerson because they love Emerson, they love what Emerson can offer them,” she said. “It’s really a school for people who want to do the work.”

And what work she’s done already: On top of her acting roles, Stokes is the author of “Bold and Blessed: How to Stay True to Yourself and Stand Out from the Crowd,” published when she was 12. She also serves as a Global Goodwill Ambassador for Read Across Africa, an organization that promotes literacy and access to books in rural Africa.

Though Stokes will complete her fall semester virtually from her home in Los Angeles, she is considering hybrid learning in the spring. In lieu of the typical college experience, she’s looking forward to the extra support from her parents.

“If I would have gone to college at the usual age, even though I still would have had my parents, I don’t think they would have been as hands-on,” she said.

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Ron Stokes said his daughter’s swift academic progress is no surprise.

“It’s not strange because it’s who she is — she’s just being Trinitee,” said Stokes, a sociology professor at DeVry University. “She doesn’t set out intentionally to break these history marks and all that. She’s just concerned about doing a great job.”

Before officially enrolling at Emerson, she visited the campus in April — her first trip to Boston — and met president Lee Pelton (now the head of the Boston Foundation).

Trinitee Stokes met former Emerson College president Lee Pelton when she toured the campus in April.
Trinitee Stokes met former Emerson College president Lee Pelton when she toured the campus in April.Derek Palmer

She explored the area around the downtown campus, which was, to her delight, “not too much hustle and bustle.” A history buff at heart, she hopes to check out the museums and landmarks when she’s in the city.

“Everything is just right there, so there’s not a lot of going too far from campus or anything like that,” she said. “It’s a great environment, and I look forward to getting a little bit of time there.”

Brenda McHaney, Stokes’s educational specialist at the charter school, said the teen was renowned for acing the college-level classes she took and was always “thirsty for the knowledge.”

“We’ve never had a Trinitee before,” she said. “Her work ethic is like no other student I’ve ever had.”

“Mixed-ish” aired its finale in May, but Stokes is working on her own ideas for television shows, ventures she said will be finalized later in the summer or fall.

Meanwhile, she is trying not to “psych herself out” about being the youngest person at the college. Her excitement — at least for now — is superseding her nerves.

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“It feels like this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said. “This is a very much ‘me’ decision — this has Trinitee written all over it.”


Dana Gerber can be reached at dana.gerber@globe.com