Teretha Robinson has attended Polk State College on and off for more than 30 years, coming up with “all of the excuses in the world” as to why she couldn’t complete her degree.
“I had help and the support of my family, yet I would still make excuses,” she said. “I had kids to raise, I had a job to go to, I was too tired, or too busy. In reality, I just needed to find some motivation.”
She first enrolled at Polk State in 1986.
“I was fresh out of high school, I didn’t have a plan, and I just needed something to do,” she recalled. “I didn’t understand the importance of an education.”
When she had her son at 21 years old, Robinson realized it was time to buckle down, but her education took a backseat.
She called it sheer luck when she landed a job at Tampa Electric, where she has had a successful career for 30 years.
But as she encouraged her children to pursue higher education, Robinson realized the importance of practicing what she preaches.
Robinson will graduate with Polk State’s 118th class on May 3 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management with a concentration in Healthcare Administration.
“By pushing my kids,
I realized I needed to push myself.”
“By pushing my kids, I realized I needed to push myself,” she said.
“How could I demand something of them and I haven’t done it myself? Will my children question me later in life and ask why I didn’t practice what I was preaching to them? I didn’t like the answers I was giving myself, and I knew I was the only one who could do something about it.”
In 2013, her mother passed away after suffering a brain aneurism. Her mother’s experience at Kindred Hospital in Tampa, as well as the experience of the family, inspired Robinson to change careers.
“We were all so well taken care of, and it made me think that I’m not doing enough to help people,” she said. “I’ve never worked in healthcare, and it’s a huge stretch, but my mom and my children are pushing me forward.”
Robinson will spend one more year with Tampa Electric’s Engineering Department while she searches for a position in the healthcare industry.
She only wishes she would have completed her degree sooner.
“I want my story to serve as encouragement for others. I was scared of math, I feared being in class with younger students, I was intimidated and would withdraw,” Robinson said. “I told myself I couldn’t do it because I had kids to raise and I didn’t have time to fit school into my schedule.”
“But look at my picture, read my story, and know that if I could do it, you can do it too,” she exclaimed. “Be determined and don’t give up.”
“I want my story to serve as encouragement for others. Look at my picture, read my story, and know that if I could do it, you can do it too.”
While Robinson qualifies to march on May 3, she plans to wait until the December 2018 commencement ceremony to receive her diploma so that her children, both Polk State graduates, can attend. Her son, Gary, is a student at the University of Central Florida, and her daughter, Sydney, is a student at the University of South Florida.
“I have to have my children there. I’m just so excited and keep thinking, ‘why didn’t I do this a long time ago?’” Robinson said. “But I’m a believer that it doesn’t matter how long it took to get something, all that matters is that I achieved my goal. I’m grateful, overwhelmed, and appreciative of my children; good friend, Ruth; and Polk State’s faculty and staff who motivated and encouraged me along the way.”