Citizen Awards 2006
When Deidra Robinson walked across the stage at Riverside-Brookfield High School’s graduation ceremony on June 2, the moment signaled not just an academic achievement, but also a final departure from the school that she says has become an extended family to her.

“RB is a very friendly community,” she said. “It’s really more of a close-knit family. If I ever had something happen to me where I needed to talk to someone, someone was always there for me. That’s what helped me get through my four years here.”

Robinson, a Broadview resident, became involved with this “family” the moment she entered RB, immediately joining the student government organization, the Student Association, which is responsible for planning the school’s annual dances and organizing various charity drives throughout the school year. Throughout her four years with the SA she worked her way onto the group’s executive board, serving as its secretary for two years.

In addition, Robinson also added to the RB community by helping to start a club of her own. Together with some of her friends, she organized and eventually became president of the African-American Cultural Association. In the two years since its formation, the group has organized many events celebrating and trying to educate the student body on African-American culture.

Inasmuch as Robinson has supported her RB family through her extracurricular efforts, there have been many times in the past few years where she has had to lean on it for support. Just months before she was to graduate from eighth grade and start high school, Robinson’s mother died unexpectedly. Three years later, in October 2004, in her junior year, Robinson’s father also died suddenly from complications with emphysema.

Both losses left Robinson stunned and reeling, but in both instances she said she found a certain level of escape and support in the RB community. This was particularly true during her junior year. The morning after her father’s death, she said, she decided to go to a scheduled SA event rather than stay at home, and she attended class every day leading up to his funeral.

“My parents always told me to never throw a pity party for myself, to always go out and do something to make myself happy,” she said. “I knew I’d rather be at school than stay at home. It was homecoming week, and going to school really lightened the situation and made me feel good. Everyone was constantly checking to make sure I was okay, and it was good to have their support.”

The extent to which the RB community supported her especially hit home, she said, when Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann attended her father’s funeral.

“It was really good to see Mr. Baldermann there,” she recalled. “I was sitting with my family in the front, and I turned around and noticed him in the crowd. I was shocked.”

Although losing both of her parents in such a short period of time has been hard to deal with, Robinson said she has tried to keep a positive outlook on her situation. She said she has learned to appreciate her family more, and feels that she made the most of the time she had with her parents.

“The last thing I said to both of them was ‘I love you,'” she said. “That’s why I can go on … I have no regrets. I respected them while they were here, and they raised me to be an independent woman and to know right from wrong.”

And although her parents were not there to see her graduate from high school, her next step is largely being guided by their advice and comments they had made to her years ago.

Robinson, who now lives with her adoptive mother, whom her father married shortly before his death, and her younger two sisters and brother, will be attending Loyola University in the fall with the intention of studying psychology and nursing.

Before her mother died, Robinson promised her that she would go to college. And she first began thinking of nursing when her father, in his last week in the hospital, joked that he would have liked to have his daughter as his nurse.

“My parents were always telling me that the sky is the limit,” she said. “And when my father said he wanted me to be his nurse, it just stuck in my head and I started looking into nursing programs. I’m still not sure if I want to focus on nursing or psychology, but I know that God put me through these things for a reason, and maybe this is it.”

Last book read, not for class:

Sheisty,” by T.N. Baker

Favorite song:

“I don’t have just one favorite song, but my favorite artist is Mary J. Blige.”

Most influential person other than parents:

“My adopted mother,” Wanda Robinson.

Where will you be in 10 years?

“I hope to see myself with at least two degrees, living life and enjoying it to the fullest.”

How would you creatively spend your lottery winnings?

“I would set up women and children’s shelters and dedicate them to my parents and grandparents.”

One thing you would change about RB:

“I would put in air conditioning on both sides of the school. It’s a good thing the referendum passed, so maybe they can afford to do that now.”

One thing would leave the same (or change) about RB:

Robinson would keep “the close-knit family that RB has. That will help somebody else just like it helped me. As long as RB stands, they will have that close-knitness about them, and that’ll help so many kids.”