Robert Villanueva

From South Carolina to Afghanistan and back a time or two, I’ve spent the last ten years running away from where I was raised. Dilapidated buses, tanks, and crumbling helicopters and airplanes have taken me around the world, but no matter how far or hard I may have run, the tire tracks settled firmly again in Robeson County.

With slight hesitation, at the age of 28, I made my way down the halls of Robeson Community Colleges. I was lost! Worse, I felt out of place. These faces, these people, they were all so young. They laugh and converse with fellow classmates, but I’m the old guy – the anomaly. To me, this classroom was colder and less welcoming than the streets of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Nonetheless, steadfastly I keep to myself and the books. Hours studying at the dinner table turn into weeks. The time between the first test and the final exams blur into perpetual studies. The first semester turns into the final semester – all A’s. Opportunities abound; dreams turn into a reality. From lighting the candle at the Phi Theta Kappa ceremony to receiving an acceptance letter into the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, small affirmations along the way have guided my still uncertain footsteps. Moreover, small blessings in the form of instructors, friends, faculty have stood in staunch support and helped to ensure those footsteps now amass to lengthy, poised strides – and it all began at Robeson Community College.