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DL lady Sue Trnka chosen to star in Boys and Girls Club/U of Phoenix ad

A nine-person camera crew took over the space at Sue Trnka’s house, filming a typical day in the Trnka household for an upcoming marketing campaign for the University of Phoenix. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Detroit Lakes mother of three and resource development director at the Boys and Girls Club, Sue Trnka, recently got a little taste of what reality stars go through.

Trnka spent two days this week with a nine-person film crew that documented nearly every moment of her days.

“It got a little weird when the wardrobe person started going through my closet and the makeup person started air brushing me to look like a 17-year-old 41-year-old,” laughed Trnka, who says the crew completely took over the space in her small home with lighting and camera equipment.

But it’s no reality show she’s being filmed for — the crew is tasked with creating a marketing campaign for the University of Phoenix, highlighting its partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Trnka will be the one and only star of this nation-wide production and will literally be the face of the campaign.

The process of choosing Trnka began a couple of years ago when she was one of only 30 people throughout the U.S. chosen for a full “ride” to the University of Phoenix. The scholarship was one designed to help parents of children who were members of a Boys and Girls Club or a staff member of a Club. Trnka was both.

“I was chosen based on an essay we had to write on being an inspirational mom and how you thought you could be an inspiration to your kids,” said Trnka, who was shocked when she got the scholarship.

“It really was life-altering in a good way for us,” said Trnka, who is a single mother with a full-time job. At the time, she was living in Waubun, driving the commute to Detroit Lakes for her job at the Boys and Girls Club.

“But when I got this scholarship, I thought, how am I going to squeeze in another 20-25 hours of studying into my week?” she said. “The only place I had any available time to cut out was the commute — so we moved to Detroit Lakes.”

The move turned out to be a good one for Trnka and her three children, Emily, 11, Bobby, 9, and Jack, 8.

“It’s allowed  me to be more active in the community like co-chairing Polar Fest, it’s made me more able to be involved with the club, I’m a noon Rotarian, it broadened my circle of friends, and my kids love the club, love the town and love going to Rossman,” said Trnka. “Getting that scholarship turned my life upside down in a good way.”

Trnka has been steadily taking classes in business management, which she says will give her room to grow in a workforce that she says nearly demands a college degree these days.

It hasn’t been easy for the busy mom who juggles work, community commitments, her kids’ homework, baths, meals, housework and now her own homework.

“There were times I wanted to quit,” she admitted, but she pushed through.

The film

Officials from the University of Phoenix began pairing with the Boys and Girls Club of America four years ago, offering among other things, scholarships and donations to the clubs and its members. A big reason for this pairing was the fact that there already seemed to be a lot of similarities in the people who attended the online university and club members.

Similarities included single parents, people living below the poverty line and a significant minority population.

“We saw this opportunity to duel achieve,” said Tammy Fernandez, executive director of Corporate Social Responsibility for University of Phoenix, “…where we can help more kids in the clubs by helping the parents achieve their goals.”

After going through the pile of scholarship recipients they had, Fernandez says they chose Trnka.

“We wanted somebody who could demonstrate to others out there who deal with the daily struggles of life, who have kids and busy lives but still believe that education is important enough to work through those struggles and who then also make education more achievable for their children as well,” said Fernandez, saying that they believed Trnka was somebody that people could “connect” with.

The filming

Filming was intensive for Trnka and her children as the crew had them on camera doing everything from their nightly routine of homework, band practice and dinner to their time at the Boys and Girls Club.

They interviewed Trnka on what inspired her to go back to school and what she would tell someone who wants to go back but doesn’t believe they can or have the time.

“You know, we’re all just trying to make it from one day to the next and trying to make things better as we go,” she said, adding that the film crew also interviewed her children, asking them how they felt about her going back to school and what they thought of her.

“And it was really good for me to hear because you don’t usually have those types of conversations with your kids or ask them these kinds of questions,” said Trnka, who says her children have probably had to become more self-sufficient that they would have if she didn’t have to study all the time.

“But they also now understand the concept of long term goals and the importance of education, and it was just nice to hear that they were proud of me.”

Trnka says although the two days of intensive filming was “exhausting,” it was also what she calls “an awesome experience.”

“When I was getting my makeup done, I found out that I was sitting in the same chair Charlize Theron and Tommy Lee Jones sat in to get their makeup done,” said Trnka, who was told by the crew that she was failing to develop her “diva” attitude.

“Yeah, that’s funny — diva,” she said. “I’m not special. We’re all just trying to get from one day to the next and hopefully make things a little better as we go.”

The video production and its marketing campaign are set to hit the social media platform of the University of Phoenix sometime next month.