WSCC advisor can identify with students she counsels
This is one in a series of stories celebrating Community College Month during April.
Hanceville, AL — When Amber Robinson, a Success Advisor in Wallace State Community College’s Center for Student Success, sits across her desk from an incoming or current student, she can identify with what they’re going through. She went through it herself as a former student of the college where she now works.
Robinson began classes at Wallace State after she graduated from high school in 1999. She took classes for two semesters before transferring to the University of Alabama.
“I hated it,” she admits. “I did well grade-wise, but I just did not enjoy the atmosphere at all, so I came back home.”
She took a couple of more semesters at Wallace State with a goal of transferring to UAB to complete a business degree.
“But I got going with work and work kind of distracted me,” she said. “I was making good money, and everything was fine.”
About a year after giving birth to her son, she and her husband made plans for her to return to Wallace to take a few more classes before transferring to Athens State University.
“A week later, everything fell apart,” she said. “I had already turned in notice for my job and then I became a single mom, real, real quick. I decided I was going to stick to the plan. My job offered to just tear up the resignation letter, but I was like, no, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it and we’re going to get finished with it and we’re going to do it right, we’re going to get this done.”
She came back to Wallace for two more semesters to get a few more classes out of the way. She made sure to stay in contact with Helen Crider of Athens State, who has an office on the WSCC campus, and built relationships with Business instructors Marcie Manning and Terri Waldrop and Psychology instructor Stacey Brunner.
“They were my biggest cheerleaders at Wallace and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep moving,” she said. “Back then you really didn’t have advisors, so it was like you made friends with your instructors, which I did, and just seek out information. So, Helen was on my Athens side and Marcie, Terri and Stacey were on my Wallace side.
“They will always have an important part of my story,” she added. “Their kindness, encouragement, and understanding will always be remembered.”
Robinson earned an associate degree in general studies with a Business concentration from Wallace State in 2011 and then double majored in accounting and management at Athens State, where she graduated in 2012. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Faulkner University.
She said her time at Wallace State prepared her and gave her the confidence to continue her education.
“It prepared me for the next step,” she said. “I was a single mom to a very young child. I was scared, broke, but I was determined to do better for my child. Wallace State not only provided me with the tools and confidence to realize that I could accomplish my goals, but they also prepared me for the tests, extra assignments, learning to think outside of the box. They taught me to advocate for myself and how important a college education is.”
Now, she advocates for the students she advises and feels her experiences help her commiserate with what they are going through.
“I feel like I can empathize with them when they’re fresh out of high school,” she said. “I know how scary that is coming in. I know you have no clue how college life is really going to be until you go through that first semester. But then, I can also empathize with those students that are coming back after making some different decisions and getting away from college. I’ve been through it.”
Robinson said she will sometimes share her story with students, so they realize they are not alone in their struggles and how important it is not to quit.
“I share a little bit of my journey to let them know this journey was not perfect by any means,” she said. “There were a lot of late nights, a lot of tears and a lot of different jobs. I went a couple of years without insurance, and you pray you don’t get hit by a car or get a crazy disease or need surgery.”
One of those students is Randi Gonzalez, a Medical Assisting major. A single mother who moved back home after escaping an abusive marriage, Gonzalez was six months pregnant when she first met Robinson when she visited to college to look into enrolling.
“She was sweet, gentle and attentive to me,” she said. “She made me feel comfortable. She put my mind at ease.”
Gonzalez told Robinson she didn’t want to enroll in school so far into her pregnancy, but that she would after her baby was born. Robinson gave her information about the admissions process and gave Gonzalez her card.
“One year later, I received a call from Mrs. Robinson,” Gonzalez said. “She called to check on my family and asked if I was ready to join Wallace State Community College. The next morning, I applied to the college. She will walk across the stage in May at the Wallace State commencement ceremony and complete her degree this summer.
Wallace State Success Advisor Amber Robinson with her husband, Kevin, and their son Connor, who Kevin adopted.
While Robinson said her time at Wallace was the hardest, most emotional time she has ever experienced, it was also the most rewarding. “I will be grateful for starting here first,” she said.
Robinson has since remarried and gained three bonus children. Her son is now 14 already has plans to enroll in Wallace State’s Dual Enrollment program when he becomes eligible. Robinson said she is proud her son was able to see her succeed in college and in her career at Wallace State.
“The most rewarding thing was my child growing up, watching me do all the college things,” she said. “He was there for every graduation, and he has grown knowing how important it is to keep pushing yourself.”
Registration for summer and fall semesters in underway. Summer 2023 classes begin May 24. Fall 2023 classes begin Aug. 18. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu, call 256.352.8000 or come by Lion Central in the lobby of the James C. Bailey Center Monday-Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or Friday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Kristen Holmes
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