Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Robert Cunningham: A True Ferrum College Success Story

By Tom Steele, Ferrum College Director of Academic Outreach Initiatives

Robert Cunningham '17 is a true Ferrum College success story. He defied the academic odds makers by earning his degree in Sports Management, which he completed in only four years! Robert accomplished this milestone while managing more responsibilities than did most of his peers. 

When asked what the past four years at Ferrum College have taught him, Robert replied, “Work hard. There are no shortcuts; you gotta grind through it.” One might say that Robert has excelled in the grind.

Robert first learned about Ferrum College at a wrestling camp in his home town of York, SC, which was hosted by Ferrum Head Wrestling Coach Nate Yetzer. Robert explained, “Coach Yetzer and Jason Byrd (Director of Admissions), stayed in contact with me. They helped with everything and got me thinking that I could make college a reality.”

During his years at the College, Robert earned membership in the Ferrum Scholars program. He was selected captain of the wrestling team. He shared his wisdom and positive outlook by mentoring new freshmen in the Brother4Brother program. Robert also became a devoted husband and loving father. These have been busy, exciting years for the Cunningham family.

However, Robert wasn’t always confident that he would earn his college degree. Robert shared, “I am a first generation college student. I didn’t come to Ferrum for academics. I came to Ferrum to wrestle. But, I used my resources, I had success early, and I began to gain confidence. The discipline I learned from wrestling was a big help, and my coaches kept pushing me. I had to learn how to study and how to balance my time and responsibilities. I had a lot of support at Ferrum.”

Between his sophomore and junior years, Robert married his high school sweetheart, Ki’Aira. They have been blessed with a daughter, Kylie. Before they joined him in Ferrum, Robert was a frequent traveler to Rock Hill, SC to spend time with his family. The couple talked nightly on Facetime. Ki’Aira says the times she and Robert were apart while he was in school were the most difficult, especially with an infant in the home. Robert's family joined him at Ferrum for his senior year.

Robert has a plan for the Cunninghams' future. His goal is to become an athletic director. He will begin his career journey as a wrestling coach for nearby Patrick County High School. The journey will be a grind, with no shortcuts, and this is the way Robert expects it to be. His success as a student-athlete and as a family man have more than prepared him for the work that awaits. 

Note: Casey Fabris also profiled Robert in The Roanoke Times. You can read her article here.

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