Josette Robinson and Trinaty Hobson come from very different backgrounds. Yet their arrivals at IUPUI -- and the extreme challenges they faced to get here -- have created a bond between them in a way that not many on campus experience.
Robinson and Hobson are both part of the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program at IUPUI. It's an opportunity bestowed on promising students from disadvantaged backgrounds that provides them with the resources and financial support needed to complete their college education.
Robinson, now 45 years old, was a single mother returning to school after an unsuccessful first attempt as a teenager. Hobson, 20, is a product of the foster care system. Both had the college dream, but neither had the confidence or the background to make it come true alone. That's where the Nina Scholars program comes in.
Major: Philanthropic studies
Minor: Civic leadership
Future Goals: Master's degree in public affairs or philanthropic studies
Dream Job: Helping families, women and children improve their socioeconomic status
Fun Fact: Recipient of Lilly Family School of Philanthropy's Hearst scholarship
Q: So many students in the Nina Scholars program come from nontraditional backgrounds. Can you tell us about yours?
JOSETTE ROBINSON: I actually came to IUPUI at 17 years old, fresh out of high school. I had a lot of family issues at that time, so I didn't do well at all. I didn't have much of a support system, so I failed out. Then life happened. I got married, I had a child, and things were OK for a while. Then life got a little tumultuous. I went through a divorce, and now I'm a single mom.
I had a good job with no degree. I was working for a telephone company as an operator, and they went through a workforce reduction. At that point, I knew I had to return to school to become marketable in the workforce.
Someone told me about the Nina Scholars program at Ivy Tech. That was the start of the change of my life. It's not just the financial support. More importantly, it's the support of this network of students and staff and faculty that really encourages you and helps you believe in yourself and realize your own potential. When I first enrolled at Ivy Tech, my goal was to get an associate degree and then go back to work. But the Nina Scholars program raised my bar. I never considered getting a bachelor's because I was intimidated. I had failed the first time. It wasn't on my radar. But they put it back on my radar. Now my goal is to not only get a bachelor's. It's to get a master's and possibly beyond.
At Ivy Tech, I had a 4.0 GPA the whole time. I graduated summa cum laude, and then I transferred back to IUPUI. I was happy because I got the Nina scholarship again, but I was devastated that my old GPA was waiting on me. It was horrible. I told Charlie Johnson, who is the director of the Nina Scholars program, that I didn't know what to do. He told me, 'Don't let that GPA tell you who you are. You show them who you are.' Since I've been here, I've gotten all A's. My GPA through the Lilly Family School is a 3.91. Every semester, I see it rising and rising. That feels good.
Q: Tell me about your daughter and how you've influenced her.
JR: I have a 19-year-old daughter, and she's a sophomore in Bloomington. When I started the program, she was in high school. She sees the change in me, and that's motivated her to be a better student. I just don't have enough words to express how powerful this program has been in my life. It gave me so much power and efficacy to go out and be great. It's also had a strong impact in my daughter's life.
She's always made good grades, but I told her, 'If you would just try. If you do this without effort, imagine what you could accomplish if you really applied yourself.' She accepted the challenge and applied herself even more. She got a full-ride scholarship to IU in Bloomington just because she started applying herself more and taking her education more seriously.
Q: What advice do you have for other students who are considering college or coming back to school?
JR: It's never too late. I waited 25 years. Decide to go back, and believe that you can do it. There's a quote, 'If you believe you can or believe you can't, either way, you're right.' My advice would be just to lean into the opportunity and take advantage of all the opportunities that are placed before you.