Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Robert Newson had been out of the classroom for 29 years before he decided to follow his passion and enroll at Olive-Harvey College to study information technology.
“For years, every time I saw my mom, she would tell me I’m too smart not to go to college. When she passed away in 2013, that was a huge motivator me. It was my way of honoring her.”
After he graduated from Chicago Vocational High School in 1984, Robert worked in restaurants for a few years before landing a job as a clerk at the University of Chicago Hospital. Through the years, he worked his way up to senior medical technician.
“It wasn’t my passion, but I was good at it, and it tapped into my desire to help people. I see so many patient names come through the lab, and while they will never see me, and I’ll never know them, I know I’m helping them. They aren’t just a number to me,” Robert says.
Always helping his family and friends solve their computer issues, when he decided he would go back to school, he knew exactly what he would study: information technology. The father of three and grandfather of two chose Olive-Harvey because it was convenient and affordable, allowing him to continue working full-time and still be there for his family; he can drop off his daughter at school, then head to class, then over to work.
He was nervous about going back to school, but quickly found his footing, saying “my biggest fear was starting to go to school with classmates who were so much younger than me. I had been out of school for so long and felt like I didn’t remember anything. I thought I would be worst student in the class, but it turned out ok – I got back on track without missing too much of a beat.”
Robert finished his classes at Olive-Harvey College in December of 2018, and will represent his classmates as the 2019 valedictorian at May’s Commencement Ceremony. He is currently taking classes to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Management at DeVry University.
Robert’s advice to others who are thinking of returning to school is “do it and don’t give up. Don’t wait. And once you start, don’t be afraid to adjust things if it begins to feel like it’s too much. If you feel like it will help get you back on track and stay motivated, take fewer classes, but keep going.”