NOVA Student Plans to Pay It Forward After Getting Life-Saving Support

December 8, 2023

Tallas Robinson is a NOVA student and a single parent to a six-year-old daughter. It is just her and her daughter since she doesn’t have family around to help with childcare while she studies or goes to class. But Tallas is taking advantage of NOVA’s resources. She shared her experiences with other parenting students at NOVA’s second annual Student Parent Conference that was held recently.

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Another thing about Tallas is that she is a survivor. When you meet her, you might wonder how one person can be so extraordinary, exuding love and kindness despite having survived both domestic violence and substance abuse. Her bright smile, which simultaneously lights up a room and puts others at ease, is a testament to this young woman’s resilience. Tallas has come a long way, and she’s deeply grateful to those who helped her win her battles and survive. 

Even more telling is how determined Tallas is to pay that kindness back by positively impacting people’s lives. It’s why she returned to NOVA in the fall of 2022 to become a substance abuse counselor.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’m actually from Vancouver and moved out here to be with my mom. She wasn’t able to care for me, though, so I ended up in the foster care system.  

What brought you to NOVA?
I spent about four months attending Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria. After graduating high school in 2013, I thought about doing the ADVANCE program but decided on a different path.

I found out about Great Expectations, and through that program I became inspired to get my EMT certification. I went to the MEC (NOVA’s Medical Education Campus) for my BLS (Basic Life Support) EMT certification. That was my first time attending NOVA.

Once I got certified as an EMT, I went to work in D.C. within the 911 system. I fell into a bad relationship, a domestic violence relationship. To cope with that, I started doing substances. I got pregnant, relapsed after giving birth and eventually left the relationship.

What are you studying at NOVA? 
I needed a new direction in life, so I decided to reach back out to Great Expectations and go back to school. I wasn’t sure what to study. That’s when I realized I wanted to give back to the people who had helped me. I decided to become a substance abuse counselor. There was a mix-up with some of my classes, so I’m finishing in the spring of 2024.

The counseling certification program requires courses like group counseling, individual counseling and psychology, as well as an internship. My internship is at an actual recovery center; I help clients transition into the recovery process, doing intake forms with them and educating them on self-care. Since I’ve been through it myself, I know what they’re going through, mentally and physically. It’s a tough journey; getting off substances was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I really want to help people who are going through this since there were people who helped me when I was using. It’s really important to highlight those people who are in need and can’t advocate for themselves. 

Tell us about your experience at NOVA (i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met). 
The grants and scholarships really help with a lot of expenses, especially right now. Times are hard. One of the scholarships I ended up winning paid for my entire semester. That freed up finances for me and really relieved a lot of stress.

What would you tell a student who is a parent and is coming to NOVA?
Apply for all the scholarships you can! I’ve been shocked at how many scholarships and grants I’ve received. The laptop loaner program was a big help, too; it allowed me to take virtual classes while staying home with my daughter. The Student Success Fund is really helpful for those who qualify for it.

For me, I was lucky to get into the Head Start program with my daughter, but there are tons of resources on the NOVA website.

Keep your head up, use your resources and check your email! Engagement is key. It’s harder to connect with people after the pandemic, and even as we get older, but be open to connecting and putting yourself out there. Attend a game night and engage with people. And engage with others in your classroom — you never know who might be going through a similar experience.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
I want to continue to help people in the best way I can. I want to open a recovery center that also supports victims and survivors of domestic violence.

I want to provide the same support that I received, or even what I didn’t get but really needed. I want to give that to women and men; men also are victims of domestic violence.

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