Yahira Robinson was just 12 years old when she knew – seriously knew – she wanted to be a Spartan.
Like most kids that age, she wasn’t sure about being a teenager or life as a grown-up or a career. And as one of six siblings growing up in a single-parent household, she wasn’t sure if going to college would be an option.
But then she learned to dance. And that changed everything.
Because at the age of 12, Robinson’s mother enrolled her in Dancers Connect, an initiative through UNC Greensboro’s School of Dance that allows Triad area students ages 3-16 to take classes taught by dance education majors and faculty at no cost.
“This was my first introduction to dance, and I completely fell in love with it. My passion was ignited.”
So when it came time to apply to college, Robinson had her sights set on one school to pursue a degree in dance studies: UNC Greensboro.
“I got accepted into other universities, but I knew I only wanted to go to UNCG because of my experience in Dancers Connect. I had already made connections with faculty who I knew would push me to be my best, and I knew I wouldn’t have those same feelings anywhere else.”
And that proved to be true. Robinson says her favorite thing about the School of Dance has been the diversity and breadth of the dance studies program, allowing her to master techniques in contemporary ballet, hip-hop, tap, jazz, and more.
“I’m walking away with so much under my belt that I didn’t even think was possible. In many other conservatory-style schools, you’re usually limited to one area of focus, like ballet or contemporary. So it’s been really rewarding to take advantage of all of the different classes the School of Dance has to offer.”
Robinson’s studies extended beyond the studio. In her sophomore year, she had the opportunity to present the impacts of kinesthetic learning at a national conference with her longtime mentor Dr. Mila Parrish.
“I truly believe in dance therapy and the power of kinesthetic movement not only to teach people, but to help people.”
This research inspired Robinson to pursue a second degree in elementary education so she could make a difference in more people’s lives by implementing kinesthetic learning in the traditional classroom, not just in the dance studio.
Her School of Education faculty introduced her to a new form of kinesthetic learning known as integrated dance – teaching traditional subjects like math, science, and reading through dance movements. For example, a lesson on the water cycle could incorporate jumps into the air to exemplify water being evaporated.
“My research on integrated dance was really the turning point for me because I could be in the classroom and still teach dance, while also expanding my reach and impact by teaching math, science, or English at the same time. It was a way to combine my two passions of education and dance to make teaching fun for kids, and it’s accommodating to a lot of different learning styles. I think a lot of times, students can get stuck at their desks, so allowing them to get up, flourish, and learn through movement is really rewarding.”
And Robinson has been able to see the benefits of implementing integrated dance into the classroom first-hand this last semester. In January, she began teaching sixth-grade science full-time at Northern Guilford Middle School.
“It’s been a unique experience to be a student-teacher one day and a full-time teacher the next, but I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity, and it’s truly helped me realize my love for educating and inspiring the next generation.”
Robinson says she is “somebody who’s meant to give to other people,” so in addition to balancing her responsibilities as a student, a full-time teacher, and the Northern Guilford Middle dance team coach, she is also involved on campus as a student ambassador for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, a regular volunteer through the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, a resident advisor, and a Spartan Guide.
“It means a lot to me to have helped other Spartans find their way here, just like I did through Dancers Connect when I was 12. As a first-generation student, I feel like it’s important to be a role model for other students and show them all of the resources and opportunities the campus has to offer. I truly believe in the University’s message of ‘find your way here.’ I found my way; I’m home. And I think being able to show other students that UNCG can be their home, too, is really special.”
As her undergraduate journey comes to an end, she won’t be saying goodbye to her “home away from home” just yet – she has accepted a job with Housing & Residence Life as a graduate assistant for residence education and will pursue her M.Ed. in higher education right here at the G.
But first, Robinson will graduate on May 6 with two degrees; an impressive resume full of hands-on education, service, and leadership experience; and a lifetime’s worth of memories.
When she imagines what her 12-year-old self would think to see her today as a soon-to-be Spartan graduate who completed two degree programs in four years as a first-generation college student, one word comes to mind: proud.
“If I could speak to my 12-year-old self right now, I would say, ‘You don’t even know what’s coming. You have no idea how much you’ll grow in 10 years. You’ll find power and strength in your gifts. You’re going to break barriers and generational curses. You’re going to come out of your shell. And you’re going to achieve so many things that you never thought possible.'”
#UNCGGrad, celebrate with us!
Graduates are invited to share their accomplishments on social media by using related “digital swag,” tagging posts #UNCGGrad, and using Commencement-themed Instagram AR and Snapchat filters at the Greensboro Coliseum. The University will display #UNCGGrad-tagged Instagram and Twitter posts live before the ceremony. Graduates are also encouraged to use the Commencement 2022 persona in the UNCG Mobile App.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Video by Grant Evan Gilliard and Alexandra McQueen, University Communications