Written by Jill Nossa Thursday, 30 January 2014 00:00
When Antoine Robinson enlisted in the National Guard in the summer of 2011, he was homeless and wanted to find a way out. Joining the military seemed like the best option, and now, just a few years later, it’s proved to be an even greater decision than he could have imagined: Robinson was selected to receive 4-year scholarship to Vassar College, an opportunity that he was not even looking for.
“It came out of nowhere—I was completely blindsided,” says Robinson. “And it’s changed the course of my life.”
This fall, Robinson, who has lived in Glen Cove for about a year and a half, will continue his education and study fine art at Vassar, as part of The Posse Foundation’s Veterans initiative, which was launched in 2012 in an effort to increase the college-going and graduation rates of veterans. He says when he first heard of the opportunity, he didn’t think “it applied to someone like me.”
Just 20 military veterans from across the country have been selected to attend Vassar and Wesleyan colleges next year as part of the initiative.
“The men and women who have served our country in the military deserve the opportunity of a top-rate education, and at the same time colleges benefit from having students with this type of diverse experience and background,” says Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial.
The initiative is supported in part through $2,300,000 in sponsorships; global software company Infor was the founding sponsor of the initiative. Every year, the Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains multicultural teams of 10 veterans and sends them to selective four-year institutions of higher education. The Posse Scholarships complement scholarships through the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon funding to allow each Veterans Posse Scholar to attend college tuition-free and receive support through to graduation.
When Robinson enlisted with the National Guard, he received training in Fort Jackson and Fort Lee, which has helped him get a steady job as a generator technician. His passion, however, is art; he attended Molloy College on a partial scholarship in 2007 for art
before enlisting. A single father of a daughter who is now 6, he spent most of his earlier college career as a single father balancing the demands of a full course schedule with the necessity of working a stable job. Although he maintained a 3.2 GPA, the battle of competing priorities drove him to the brink of homelessness and forced him to put his college education on hold.
He says being in the National Guard has taught him “how to be a leader, how to be a better person. It’s taught me to be focused and stay motivated.”
Robinson’s leadership abilities were quickly recognized by his superior officers during basic training. He was asked to be the platoon leader and serve as a guiding hand for the soldiers in his unit and was named Soldier of the Year in 2012.
Now, Robinson has a new opportunity to finance his education and recommit to his passion of art.
He says he is very excited to start at Vassar in the fall. “It’s an amazing opportunity,” he says, noting however, “Nothing good comes without sacrifice.”
For more information on The Posse Foundation visit www.possefoundation.org