Reich College of Education, Appalachian Educators bring Nia Robinson to Top of the Rock

Emily Broyles, News Editor

When her family paid $65 for her application to App State, Nia Robinson cried. Four years later, she found herself crying again, front and center at Kidd Brewer Stadium as this year’s Top of the Rock. 

“To know that a 19,000 student university voted for me? From freaking Kannapolis, North Carolina? I didn’t even want to go here my first year,” said Robinson, a senior middle education major. “It’s so awesome.”

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Robinson was one of eight students selected for this year’s homecoming court after an application and interview process. Appalachian Educators, a club of education majors passionate about serving the community of App State and neighboring schools, nominated Robinson.

Now, she’s Top of the Rock, but Robinson has always been involved from the ground up.

“Our club, every year, goes the hardest for homecoming. My sophomore year I was on homecoming committee, and my junior year I was the president, so I guess there’s a deep tradition,” Robinson said.

Robinson said this year was different. 

“They give you your sashes, and you get to ride in these really cool Jeeps, and the sun was setting; it was just beautiful,” Robinson said. “I was in the car with (Lauren Hempen) and I told her, ‘I don’t even care if I win now.’ It was the most Appalachian spirit I had.”

Robinson said her favorite memory of homecoming was talking with two little girls under the bleachers, both saying they wanted to be “just like her.” Robinson said she never pictured herself in this role, especially after being uncertain of App State her first year.

“A lot of first-year students struggle and don’t know if it’s for them,” Robinson said. 

Robinson said she cried happy tears when she won because she “was just thinking back through everything” that got her to Top of The Rock, especially the James Center in the Reich College of Education.

“They have given me job opportunities. They have done so much for me just from being there, just from me keeping my heart open to the university and what it can do for you,” Robinson said.

Tracy Smith, a professor in the department of curriculum and instruction, said Robinson is making a name for middle grades education, one of the smaller programs in the college of education.

“She’s able to be an ambassador to our program to young adolescents who are so stereotyped, and she’s been a champion for those students, as well,” Smith said. “We’re so proud of her.”

Robinson is an ambassador for the RCOE. In this position she gives tours of the building and helps peers in the James Center.

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“I just think you see her a lot. She raises her hand, she volunteers, she shows up,” Smith said.

Kari Riddle, an alumna of App State, met Robinson through Appalachian Community of Education Scholars. Riddle said while Robinson has become a close friend over the years, she has always known her potential as an educator.

 “She’s so much of a leader,” said Riddle, a third grade teacher at Parkway Elementary School. “She just has that personality that you want to be around her.”

Riddle said Robinson’s energy in everything she does will speak volumes in the classroom.

“Whoever her students are, they’re going to be blessed for sure,” Riddle said.

Robinson’s roommate, Kristin Kirk, said Robinson is the same person everywhere, whether it’s listening to their “song of the day” at home or leading an orientation group as a SOUL.

“She’s honestly a positive light wherever she goes,” said Kirk, a senior special education major. “She just gets to sprinkle herself all around these different places at App, and I think she does a great job at it.”

Robinson said she’s thankful for the homecoming court opportunity and even more so for the support of her friends and parents, who usually only visit Boone to move her in and out of her residence halls.

“I just felt all of the love and support, that even if I didn’t win, I would have been happy,” Robinson said.