When Marielle Robinson walks across the stage to accept her Bachelor of Arts degree in social science with a concentration in human services, the 36-year old says all her sacrifices and her sheer will to never give up will all be worth it.
Robinson will be among the more than 60 graduates who will receive a bachelor’s degree at Allen University’s spring 2019 Commencement Ceremony, set for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11.
When reflecting on her collegiate journey, the resident of West Columbia said, “It wasn’t easy when I started.”
And understandably so.
Nearly 15 years had passed from the time Robinson received her high school diploma from Myrtle Beach High School in 2000 and enrolled in Allen. Over the course of that time period, Robinson started a family, raising three children as a single mother and working full-time as a school bus driver for five years. Then in 2012, she began working as a behavioral modification/ transportation supervisor with Access Community Rehabilitation in Lexington, South Carolina, where she worked with at-risk youth.
“It was always my dream of going to college, but when I graduated from high school, my mother just did not have the money to send me to college nor did she have any knowledge about college, so I began working. But I never gave up on my dream of going to school,” said Robinson.
As fate would have it, Robinson would be led on the path toward fulfilling her dream, and an old familiar place from her childhood would play a significant role.
While working at the rehabilitation center, despite obtaining a management position at her job, Robinson was being overlooked for promotion. Not having a degree was the primary factor, said Robinson. A chance encounter with Allen University alumnus Jamal Stroud would eventually open the door of opportunity.
“He told me I had the skills, but that it would only be too far that I could go without having a degree. He encouraged me to go to school – to get my degree. He told me exactly where I should go, too,” said Robinson.
Robinson knew the Christian liberal arts school well. It held a special place in her heart. She had fond memories of traveling to Columbia from Myrtle Beach, where she lived growing up, and staying on the campus as a participant of the A.M.E. Youth Program Department summer camp.
“I started coming here at about 12 years old. I remember everything so well. During my summers here, I remember thinking to myself, I really want to go to Allen University,” Robinson recalled.
When she finally enrolled into the university and sat for the first time in Chappelle Auditorium as a freshman, the nostalgia of her time here as a pre-teen flooded her memories.
Very quickly, however, she learned that college life would not be easy. She had to learn how to balance school with the demand of being a single mom and a full-time professional.
“I have to admit that I came to school with an attitude that I had to be different from the other students because I wasn’t a traditional student,” said Robinson. “I didn’t believe that I would be able to relate to them because we were at different stages in our lives. I had more life experiences than my classmates. But as I began navigating college life and interacting with my classmates, I learned immediately that I needed them,” she continued.
According to Robinson, her classmates offered her academic support that helped eased college life. Robinson is also quick to note she received similar support from Allen faculty.
“The teachers were great. They were very helpful, and my professors were understanding,” said Robinson. “That’s what I love about them.”
The camaraderie from her classmates and the assistance she received from faculty is what helped to make her a successful student, said Robinson, who was recognized as a United Negro College Fund Scholar and was recently inducted into Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She serves as the vice president for the on-campus chapter.
Now just a few days from graduating, Robinson thoughtfully considers the moments along her journey.
“When I started Allen, I didn’t know anything about college, other than I wanted to come,” said Robinson, who proudly stated she will be a first-generation college graduate.
“I enjoyed my learning experience here at Allen, though it was definitely challenging. But I can say that I never wanted to give up. I had invested too much of my time and money. Plus, I had many friends and family supporting me on this journey,” Robinson declared.
More than the investment she made, Robinson says her motivation to finish had a deeper meaning.
“I had to be an example for my children, who are now 17, 14 and 12 years old. I wanted them to see you’re never too old to follow your dreams. It is never too late,” said Robinson.
Knowing she will soon reach one milestone, Robinson has now focused her vison on accomplishing her next goal: becoming a clinical counselor.
And she’s undoubtedly confident she will make it happen.