Shukara Robertson didn’t have plans to join the military. In fact, as a high school student at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, she was much more interested in designing prom dresses for her classmates. But when a friend was scheduled to take a military placement exam, Shukara decided to accompany her for moral support, and, on a whim, she ended up taking the test herself.

With no desire to go straight to college after high school, Shukara enrolled in the military instead, leaving her home in Englewood for Fort Lewis, Washington in 2011. Based on her high-performance in skills related to logistics on her placement exam, she was placed in the Army’s logistics unit – a field she had never heard of before but one that she grew to excel in.

As an automated logistics specialist, Shukara spent the next six years serving in a variety of logistics and supply chain management capacities for the Army, while also giving birth to a son named Nasir in 2016. She enjoyed her work, however, as Nasir’s asthma began to worsen as a toddler, putting him in the local hospital’s intensive care unit several times, Shukara decided she needed to devote more time to his health. She left the Army Reserve in 2017 and returned home to Chicago in order to take better care of him with the support of her family.

Back in her hometown, Shukara took several jobs, building her savings as a single mom while taking online classes at Trident International University. And after settling into a new life on her old stomping grounds, she discovered City Colleges. Shukara enrolled in courses at Daley College in 2018 and was later directed to Olive-Harvey because of the college’s degree in supply chain management.

Almost immediately, Shukara felt comfortable on the Olive-Harvey campus. Like her, many of Shukara’s classmates hadn’t followed a traditional high-school to four-year university path, and the professors didn’t treat them like high school students either. In fact, the night classes offered at Olive-Harvey allowed Shukara and many peers to maintain their day jobs, also allowing Shukara to pick up a second position at the school’s Veterans Services Center, where she met her soon-to-be mentor, Derek Tyson.

A former member of the U.S Army himself, Mr. Tyson introduced Shukara to some of the other benefits she could take advantage of as a veteran, including paid tuition for both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, should she decide to pursue them. He also told her about the free child care offered at Olive-Harvey, where Shukara enrolled Nasir immediately. Having her son nearby, in a clean, safe facility, gave Shukara peace of mind as she continued to manage school, work, and taking on a leadership role as vice president of the Veterans Club on campus.

All of these responsibilities have certainly kept Shukara, now a resident of Hyde Park, busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s even transitioned into a new position working in the supply chain division at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Lake View and is still on track to graduate with her associate degree in Supply Chain Management & Logistics in the spring of 2021.

What’s next for Shukara after graduation? She plans to take advantage of the education benefits for veterans by earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in supply chain management. She also hopes to continue working in logistics in a hospital setting, where she’s enjoyed making sure the various units have all the supplies they need to keep their patients healthy. Shukara’s dream, though, is to one day have her own office, a symbol of making key decisions and having a voice at the table.

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