For a college student, graduation is the culmination of a years-long journey.
In the case of recent Troy University graduate Mica Robinson, that journey was more challenging than most.
Robinson, who graduated from the University’s Dothan Campus in December, spent the bulk of her college career in a state of homelessness.
“In (about) 2013, I lost my apartment, so I moved into a hotel,” said Robinson, who earned a degree in social work. “I lived there while I was getting my bachelor’s degree. Not too many people knew I lived in a hotel until May of this past year.”
Her story is more common than some may realize.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 549,928 people were experiencing homelessness in the U.S. on a single night last year.
And, according to a 2013 NPR report, more displaced people are turning to hotels for shelter, much like Robinson.
Robinson graduated from Northview High School in 1989 and went to Alabama A&M before transferring to Troy University in 1991, but her heart wasn’t in her studies at the time and she ended up on academic probation.
At that point, she entered the work force and abandoned her studies until she began working at the Dothan Campus in 2012.
It was there that Dr. Debora Pettway, coordinator of Student Support Services, began working with Robinson.
“Dr. Pettway kept encouraging me to reapply and go back to school, that I was the only one stopping myself from going back,” Robinson said. “She was one of the key people talking me into going back. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and she kept asking me, ‘When are you going to graduate and finish school?’ That encouraged me to go back.”
While living out of the hotel, Robinson spent the majority of her time on campus, where she worked two jobs and took classes when she could.
“I was leaving the hotel at 5 a.m., going to school to do my shift at work, going to class in the day, working my job at Student Support Services, and taking classes at night,” she said. “I was up all day long and spent a lot of time at Troy University’s Dothan Campus.”
The whole time, she kept her struggles private.
“There were a couple of people who knew,” Robinson said. “I just didn’t want people to know what went on and the situation I was in.”
Then, in May 2016, her fortunes changed.
“I had a dear church member who happened to walk up to me and ask me if I needed an apartment,” Robinson said. “I said yes, and I told her the truth about my situation. She offered me an apartment in June, and I’ve been living there ever since. It was a blessing.”
After she walked across the stage at the Dothan Civic Center to receive her diploma last month, Robinson became emotional as she thought about her accomplishment.
“Right now I’m just really happy,” she said. “I’m a little sad that my grandparents and my dad weren’t here to see me graduate, but I know they’re here in spirit. I finally did it, y’all.”
Robinson is weighing her job opportunities, continuing to volunteer in the community, and she plans to pursue a master’s degree at TROY in the future.
She said she’d like to work with the homeless one day.
“I might not have been on the streets, but I was displaced, so I can tell them what it’s like and what I went through,” Robinson said.
For those who are going through similar challenges to the ones she faced, she has some advice.
“I want to tell them to keep going, no matter the circumstances, because there are resources out there to help you,” Robinson said. “Just keep going. You can accomplish anything you set your heart to. No matter what anyone says, your situation does not define you and does not define where you’re going to end up.”