A desire to provide a better life for her two children is her motivation. Tenacity and determination are her greatest assets.
The only missing elements separating Amber Robinson from the life she dreamed of were opportunity and a supportive environment.
She found both when she moved to Russellville, enrolled at Arkansas Tech University, gained employment with the Pope County Circuit Clerk’s Office and became involved with the Habitat for Humanity organization.
Now, following a construction assist from some of her fellow ATU students, Robinson is mere months away from becoming a college graduate and a homeowner.
“When I moved here a few years ago, I had nothing,” said Robinson (photographed, front row center). “I literally had to start over from nothing. No car, no home, no job…I was even in a hotel for a period of time, so we were homeless. Now, I’m going to be a homeowner. (My kids) will have their own place to call home. They will have a yard. It will be a safe place where they don’t have to move around. It will be their home. It’s like a dream come true.”
It all started when Robinson and her children arrived in Russellville in 2016. She had taken some community college classes in the past, and the existence of a local university in her new town intrigued her.
“(ATU) had the program I wanted,” said Robinson. “I’ve always wanted to dabble in business and accounting, and (ATU) offered flexibility with a lot of online classes.”
That flexibility has allowed Robinson to balance her busy life by taking all but two of the courses required for graduation online.
“One of the biggest strengths for me is the ability to go at my own pace,” said Robinson. “I can do homework any time of the day, which is really helpful to me as a single mom because I also work full time. I’ve always had a niche for being able to teach myself. I home schooled for a period of time, so I was familiar with just having my books, reading, learning, finding my own examples and finding my own way.”
Her sense of ingenuity and independence compelled Robinson to attend a Habitat for Humanity meeting and fill out an application to construct a home for her family. After she was selected for inclusion in the program, construction began in late summer 2019. Robinson anticipates she and her children will be moved in by February 2020.
“Even before the build, (Habitat for Humanity) gives you so much information,” said Robinson. “It is not a hand out…it is a hand up. There are classes you take beforehand to learn about tools and safety. I had never even hammered a nail before this. They also give you classes about being a first-time homeowner. I had no idea. I never thought I would be a homeowner. It’s an ongoing learning process. They want you to be prepared.”
Robinson’s dream received an additional boost on Saturday, Nov. 9, when ATU students participating in the 2019 Green and Gold Give Back event visited her construction site and helped build her new home.
“It was very humbling, and it just made my heart happy,” said Robinson. “A lot of times, on a Saturday, being a college student you don’t want to be up early and out in the cold. So many people came out and they were just so willing to help…it made me feel like my little community is here with me. Especially not having family here, my community and my work is kind of like my family. It really meant a lot. It’s a good way for Tech and the community to come together. That’s what it’s about. We need to be all together.”
A total of 139 ATU students participated in the 2019 Green and Gold Give Back. They gave 695 hours of volunteer service working on projects such as the one at Robinson’s construction site, helping local non-profit organizations and raking leaves for elderly ATU alumni.
“When it was time for everyone to leave, I don’t think (the ATU students) really wanted to go,” said Robinson. “They really wanted, sincerely, to be there, meet me and know that what they were doing was for me and my children. They didn’t even know me, but they really, sincerely wanted to be there and help. Their heart was in it. That means a lot.”
Robinson is on pace to graduate from ATU in May 2020. She is part of the first generation of her family to complete college.
“The way I grew up, I never thought about going to college and nobody told me I could go to college,” said Robinson. “It’s been a long process for me. As long as I get there, that’s really all I am concerned about. I’ve been trying to do this for 16 years, but life has just gotten in the way. I won’t give up. I’m almost there.
“I definitely shouldn’t be here today, and I didn’t think I would, honestly,” continued Robinson. “I think that’s why I’m even that much more grateful. I’ve been through a lot, and yet here I am. Three years ago, no one could have told me it would be okay. I feel like I’m in a dream. This cannot be my life.”