The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Empowering youth to overcome challenges

City College professor Chris Robinson engaging students. // Alex Perez // Guest Photographer
City College interpersonal communications major. Chris Robinson engages students. // Alex Perez // Guest Photographer

Chris Robinson, 29, a student at City College who is majoring in interpersonal communications, says he is trying to fulfill a personal dream to provide mentoring to needy Sacramento. Robinson says he helps teens face their negativity, ignorance about being responsible for their actions and lack of positive self-image when he helps them recognize their own power of conscious choice.

Robinson, who leads the Men’s Leadership Academy (M.L.A), which comprises a group of socio-economic disadvantaged youth at Roosevelt High in the Sacramento Unified School District, admits to being no stranger to hardship.

“My neighborhood was an unhealthy place to live,” says Robinson.  “I learned to adapt rather than react to survive the streets of my neighborhood. At a young age I made a decision not to be a statistic.”

He also recognized his own choices.

“I learned personal comprehension as a key to success,” says Robinson.

Robinson says that adaptation to challenges of his environment and self-reflection gave him the understanding and strength to deal with his surroundings.

“Drugs, gang banging, stolen cars and robberies were normal [activities that happened around me],” says Robinson, who grew up in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood.

Robinson also says he remembers the beginnings of what influenced his choices.

“I had some inspiration from a few men on my block that were once offenders and in prison and now were free; and chose to make sure we didn’t fallow in their foot steps. If we thought about gangs, dealing or stealing we would have to deal with,” he says.

Robinson says he faced his biggest fear the summer after ninth grade.

“My younger uncle had been killed in my own neighborhood,” Robinson says now.

In deep pain over the loss of his  uncle, Robinson, at age 14, wrote in his journal: “My hood chose death; the place that raised me took my family and separated us all,” says Robinson. “My hood murdered my youngest uncle and sent us into a whirlwind.”

Robinson said he was in pain for years; then one afternoon while speaking to his brother, Robinson realized that he didn’t know the steps to managing his life.

Robinson’s younger brother asked him, “Why do the girls always look and judge us by our image and not the heart?”

This question about the context of one’s life would become an inspiration to the program that Robinson now leads.
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“All kids are looked at as leaders not through the filter of the past.”

“I was fortunate to have a mentor that was also a life coach, who taught me to think outside the box. Think for my self” says Robinson.

Robinson is currently studying communications and wants to transfer to California State University Northridge and earn a bachelors degree.

“My educational goal was not always clear,” says Robinson “While studying communication I was inspired again to look at self-image and its impact on young adults.”

“In Social Science I learned why and how people from different cultures and ethnicities have different forms of communication comprehension and characteristics.” Robinson explained “Both courses allowed me to be able to understand my culture, create self awareness, character development and showed me my strengths and weaknesses.”

Robinson’s M.L.A, program, now is in its second year, is popular with the students participating in learning leadership, according to Kyla Thuston a student counselor at Roosevelt High School.

Robinson’s viewpoints and perspective draw students in. These students tell their friends about MLA and, in turn, those friends sometimes show up to class wanting to be in the program, Robinson says.

Now, whatever was missing from Robinson’s early educational experience is present in his classroom, he says. Students are engaged in the M.L.A program and a curriculum that he’s dubbed ‘Epiphany.’ These students, normally uninterested, are completely involved in each other and their success in academic and leadership achievement.

The classroom is a place of inspiration and transformation; where students appreciate authentic communication, according to Robinson.

Issac Tillman, a student of Robinson’s calls the M.L.A leader “ambitious and prosperous with a set goal in life he will bring people up with him. He values wisdom, loyalty, humility, respect, family and unity.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The attitude of authentic communication that Robinson demonstrates in his classroom attracts his students as future leaders.

Thuston calls Robinson  “a genuine person who speaks from his heart which gives him the ability to connect with his students.”

Robinson also inspires students of the M.L.A program who are individually inspired and have a clear vision of their dreams.

“[He] is able to connect with his students in the M.L.A. program because he shares his story and background,” Thuston says. “This creates a positive influence with his students because they can relate to his story.”

Encouraging each other the students demonstrate their leadership skills as individual and group dreams are realized with “Epiphany” according to Robinson. Epiphany is a curriculum that Robertson developed that leads students into their own personal awareness about life and overcoming its challenges.

“I cannot break barriers and build rapport or create effective relationship with my students without being empathetic,” Robinson says. “The power of empathy has helped me to understand that I do not know anyone’s personal story and that I am going to give everyone a fresh start regardless of what baggage comes along with them. I want my students to see that anything is possible”

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