FLORENCE – Born and reared in the area west of the Charleston peninsula, bordered by the Ashley River and Intracoastal Waterway, Everett L. Robinson Jr. often considered himself the underperformer in his family of eight. On May 8, Robinson graduated from Francis Marion University and is well on his way to joining the ranks of his sisters whose careers include pharmacy, electrical engineering, higher education and nursing. Earning bachelor degrees in both computer science and mathematics, Robinson will enter the Peace Corps this fall.
In every graduating class, there are tales of people who overcome incredible odds or tackle big dreams in their quest to earn a degree. This wasn’t the case for Robinson whose father has worked in the engineering industry for decades and whose mother, Jennifer, is a former employee of a local health department turned housewife. His mother often volunteered at Gibbes Museum of Art and would take her children there for art camps. They were all exposed to music, art, sports and Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Jr. ROTC) while attending West Ashley High School. But, reading was the hobby everyone in the family enjoyed most.
“Even when there was a power outage, all of us, including my parents would find enough light to read,” Robinson said.
Because his parents fostered a love of reading and exposed him to the arts and other experiences, it was easy for Robinson to become equally as active at FMU. In his freshman year alone, he was Campus Information Administrator at the Smith University Center and managed sports equipment. In the community, he worked with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools as a Servant Leader Intern for two years.
During his sophomore year, he joined the Student Government Association and served as the budget and finance chair. He also became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
His junior year, he became the president of FMU’s Student Government Association, served on the Provost Advisory Board and served as vice president of the Student Advisory Board. Robinson was elected secretary of his fraternity and became the cultural events coordinator. He was involved with several university leadership initiatives during his junior and senior years.
While serving as president of SGA, Robinson conducted a series of Town Hall meetings to give students an opportunity to voice their opinions about student life. It was during those meetings that he discovered his innate ability to reason with others. After consulting with a friend who planned to join the Corps, and sharing his desire to serve, Robinson decided he would join the Peace Corps.
Following an intense vetting process, health exams and continual interviews, he will travel to Ghana, West Africa to promote the Peace Corps mission of world peace and friendship.
The Peace Corps, which was founded in 1961, stations volunteers abroad for 27 months. There they work with communities in education, technology, conservation and health in order to foster the growth and understanding between cultures.
It is the job of his dreams, Robinson said. “Working as a volunteer does offer the chance to travel, but it’s the opportunity to help those who need it that is most appealing to me,” he added.
In fact, Robinson said that he believes with every bone in his body, that his purpose in life is to change the entire world for the better. “Most people deem the limits of their own vision as the limit of what can happen in the world. If I limit myself to what I can achieve in Florence, then I am limited to that. I want to make a difference in the world. The Peace Corps will help me accomplish that.”
Robinson began this venture by researching information online and then contacting a Peace Corps recruiter. He is now in the application process: a multi-part effort that can take months.
It begins online, filling out a form that includes multiple essay questions, after which comes an interview with a recruiter that lasts for a few hours. Afterward, the paperwork is sent to the Peace Corps offices to be processed and decided upon. If you meet their criteria, the Corps nominates you for a program they feel fit your qualifications. Robinson will train people on computer skills and work to raise HIV awareness.
Between now and his departure in October, he will spend his time meeting the medical requirements, including a physical and blood work, as well as basic immunizations.
Robinson said the work will allow him a chance to know himself better. He hopes his time abroad will help him prepare for a career as an ambassador.
“The idea of serving as someone who has no bias is precisely what I feel my purpose is in life,” Robinson said. “I want everyone to experience what I know to be true – potential is limitless so just jump on and enjoy your ride.”