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Robinson grew up in an impoverished area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Living in a two-bedroom home with his mother, two siblings, an aunt and seven others, his outlook on the future dramatically changed the evening of October 29, 1999. His mother fell unconscious in front of him. Though he immediately dialed 9-1-1, it took an ambulance 52 minutes to arrive. During the delay, his mother passed away. Later he learned that because of crime in the area, ambulance services wouldn’t respond unless escorted by the police.
He was broken. Robinson recalled a conversation he had with his mother shortly before her death and realized she wanted him to have goals. “My mom’s mindset was ‘ready, set, GROW,’” Robinson told the students. “I had to push, pull and carry on.”
In 9th grade, Robinson moved in with another aunt who had an alcohol addiction. His siblings moved back to Chicago, and he felt as if he were on his own. He began playing varsity football, where his coach, Elliot Lightfoot, became a mentor to him. “There are three people you need to find in your life: a coach, a mentor, and a cheerleader. Sometimes you’ll find all three in one person,” Robinson said of Lightfoot.
He also worked a full time job as a cook throughout high school, and had the responsibility to bring home dinner for the family he lived with. Through it all, however, he kept his mother’s insistence to grow as his inspiration.
“A lot of our students are scared about going into the 9th grade,” said Aloda Sims, Family Outreach Liaison who coordinated the appearance. “We wanted something that would provide them encouragement and inspiration so they will know how to grow and navigate their high school years. Situations are going to come; there will be struggles. Steve gave so many examples of how to push through and persevere through your toughest situations.”
Carson Christie, and 8th grader at Fridley Middle School, connected strongly with Robinson’s message.
“It made me think about how important my mom is to me,” Christie said. “She cares about how I do in school; I constantly have to work harder, especially with high school coming up.”