Black History Today: Trent and Ericka Pollard, Leading With Love

by Marcus Harden

(Black History Today is published in collaboration with Rise up for Students.)

“Like sweet morning dew

I took one look at you

And it was plain to see

You were my destiny

With you I’ll spend my time

I’ll dedicate my life

I’ll sacrifice for you

Dedicate my life for you”

— From the song “All I Need,” by Mary J. Blige and Method Man

I love “love.” I don’t know how else to say it. I truly believe that love is where “God” resides, in the spiritual realm and inside of all of us.

Healthy love, positive love — love that is dedicated to a purpose, a profession or a person — to me is truly the greatest love of all.

I’m often fascinated by those who have loved something or someone for a long time, because it means they’ve loved them through “seasons” — through ups, through downs. They have lived out the reality that is so often quoted in weddings: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

One of the greatest examples I’ve personally witnessed when it comes to a persevering love is Trent and Ericka Pollard. The Pollards are both the type of people that you can’t remember not knowing, because they serve as seed-planters and gardeners wherever they go, showing love, spreading love and replicating love. They are also a couple that you can’t remember not being with each other. Or at least that’s how it is with me.

Erika Pollard (Photo courtesy of Erika Pollard).

If you encounter Ericka first, it may be in her role as assistant principal at Franklin High School, where she leads proudly with her heart and her mind. Ericka is a lifelong educator, building on the legacy of her brilliant mother, Lillie Rainwater, who herself has served with Seattle Public Schools for more than 45 years. Ericka leads with fearless compassion, especially for those on the margins of educational and societal justice. She also speaks fluent Spanish, which she hides through deep humility until a family is in need. 

Trent Pollard (Photo courtesy of Trent Pollard).

If you meet Trent, these days it’ll probably be at Cleveland High School, where he currently services as a principal intern. Trent was probably the first person I ever looked up to. He was the coolest big & tall (mainly tall!) man that I had ever met, his father, Dexter Pollard, a longtime community advocate and barber, and Trent, a standout star at Rainier Beach High School who would go on to play in the NFL. Yet it would be in service to young people thrown away by our school district that Trent would find his true passion, serving students who others had quit on, showing up at their games, ensuring they had their basic needs met, coaching at every level. Trent embodies a servant’s heart and spirit.

To hear them tell their origin story, you immediately fall in love with them and see how their love has endured. Ericka will tell you that Trent was smitten since day one — couldn’t resist her undeniable charisma. Trent will tell you that Ericka couldn’t resist his great looks and million-dollar smile — that “she never had a chance.” Evident in how they communicate, in how they parent their two incredible daughters, is a joy and a respect that I have to believe is the center of their love. I’ve watched as they’ve silently taken in babies of their former students. I’ve watched as they’ve given “holy handshakes” to those in need, and I’ve watched as they’ve opened up their home — even their backyard during COVID (you can’t come in, but we’ve got you!).

They both do it without fanfare and without fame. I was at a place in my life not so long ago where I needed to remember who I was, and we all need people to help anchor us to our path, people who are there to remind us when we start to lose our way. Throughout what became a nine-month journey, Trent and or Ericka showed up for me. They loved me, and they didn’t just love me — they loved my family (and my newly extended family), wanting nothing in return and needing no credit (until now).

Trent and Ericka are the type of people who love without asking. They’re the couple that sends a card with a little money in it to your mother, because you don’t live in town anymore. Yet, you realize, you’re not the only one they show up for. They model to me what I hope an enduring love looks like for myself and for anyone who chooses that journey.

Is it perfect? I doubt it — nothing is — but what I do believe is that they’re perfect for each other, and that the community from Franklin to Cleveland and all points in between is better for having their example of a true power couple. Through the magnificence of love, we are reminded that true love magnifies all good things that it touches, and through the Pollards we get to glimpse what’s possible when two great people form an even greater union.

They protect, they trust, they bring hope. Trent and Ericka Pollard are indeed Black History Today!

Marcus Harden is a seasoned educator, with experience as a teacher, counselor, dean, administrator, and program and policy manager. Marcus focuses his work on creating better culture and climate for students, families, and staff. He believes deeply in restorative justice practices and in mindset and resiliency work that leads to excellent and equitable educational outcomes for all students.

Featured illustration by Devin Chicras for the Emerald.

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