May 16, 2014
Citing immense encouragement from faculty and staff, Cherrish Robinson, one of HSU’s two Outstanding Students of the Year, has made it her mission to expand access to education for all students, regardless of background.
Robinson, who is earning her degree in the Department of Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies’ Ethnic Studies pathway, found a sense of community through her connections at Humboldt State. Since 2012, Robinson has been a lead mentor with a campus effort to pair upperclassmen with freshmen to help the new students navigate the transition to college life. The Retention through Academic Mentoring Program helps establish study skills, leads freshmen to adapting to campus culture, clarifies procedures and policies and provides much needed social support to students, who, in many cases, are the first in their family to attend college.
Before coming to Humboldt State, Robinson excelled in high school, enrolling in the advance placement program, competing in basketball, track and cheer, and serving on student government. The lure of Humboldt’s remote location, away from the challenges of California’s Inland Empire, is ultimately what brought her to the Arcata campus. But, the San Bernardino-native says, finding her place at Humboldt took a little time. Thankfully she had plenty of experience as an active member of her high school to understand the importance of being an involved student. “I was junior class and senior class president. I gave our graduation speech. I came here and thought ‘I have to get involved here, too.’”
Get involved she did. Robinson was a member of the Educational Opportunity Program and served as a Community Advocate in campus housing. That experience led her to apply to the RAMP start-up and she was immediately assigned a role as lead mentor. In the program, she’s managed a caseload of 25 mentees while supervising 15 mentors.
Her busy schedule is loaded with classes—she’s taking 20 units this semester plus finishing coursework from earlier in her academic career, essentially fitting an entire year in one semester—but her energy never flags. Beyond RAMP, Robinson is also the vice president of the Black Student Union and a participant in the Campus Dialogue on Race, Black Heritage and Liberation Month and the Social Justice Summit. She can also be found in the MultiCultural Center where’s completed a yearlong research internship into the effectiveness of African American academic support centers. Her findings were presented this spring to various campus groups and will help inform changes taking place in the Retention and Inclusive Student Success and the Centers for Academic Excellence.
But at the outset of her career at HSU, Robinson wasn’t entirely convinced the Arcata campus was the right fit. “I’ve lived in a lot of different communities, and coming here was a whole different can of worms.” A rousing pep talk from her mother convinced her to stay and get more involved with campus.
“I stayed because of the community that I found here and recognizing there is so much work to be done on this campus and I had an opportunity be a part of that. That, and finding my major, this amazing department of CRGS.”
When Robinson walks across the stage at the May17 commencement ceremonies, she’ll being capping off a four-year career at HSU. This summer she’ll work with the campus’s Upward Bound program before heading to Michigan State University to begin graduate work in Student Affairs Administration. Following that, she’ll apply to be a Fulbright scholar at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Her goal? To continue her mission of making education accessible to everyone. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of barriers to be taken down. That’s what’s important to me: That anyone who desires post-secondary education has the opportunity to do so. No one should be denied that.”