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Student’s Maturity Serves Her Well in Life, at School

St. Louis Community College will celebrate commencement Saturday, May 21, at Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University, marking both small and monumental accomplishments for graduating students. There are as many stories as there are graduates, and with this special series, we celebrate all of our 2022 graduates with stories about five students who demonstrate in their own way what it takes to earn a degree. The second story is below; a new story will publish each day the week of May 16-20, leading up to the commencement ceremony.

Nunnelly familyAddi Nunnelly was practically born an adult. Dubbed an “old soul” by her grandmother as a young girl, she has always served as the caretaker.

It doesn’t matter what setting or who she’s around, she’s the one people lean on. Whether it be her younger sister, Claire, 12, her friends from Metro Academic and Classical High School or fellow members of the Phi Theta Kappa Xi Epsilon chapter. Nunnelly, 18, understands and accepts her role.

“A lot of people say ‘Addi, you can pass as 25,’” she said. “I probably could. Mentally, I’m like 30.”

Nunnelly graduates with an associate of arts degree in general transfer studies from St. Louis Community College on May 21 as she completes the school’s two-year Early College program on the Forest Park campus. The next day, she’ll receive her high school diploma.

She plans to matriculate to the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the fall where she’ll study sociology and minor in criminal justice and criminology. She’s also involved in a program that will help her launch a career in education if that’s what she chooses. For now, she’s enjoying the acts of learning and exploring.

She only wishes her mom could see the woman she’s become.

Growing Up Fast

Myrna Robinson was diagnosed with breast cancer when Nunnelly was in third grade. The cancer eventually attacked Robinson’s lungs and finally her brain. Three years into her battle and without much hope of survival, she traveled to Mexico for an experimental treatment. It didn’t work.

Robinson died when Nunnelly was in sixth grade.

As if watching her mother fight against cancer didn’t give the young Nunnelly enough to handle, she received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes about a year after her mother’s illness was found. Nunnelly didn’t have much of a choice but to grow up fast.  

“I didn’t want to rely on her because she was going through a lot,” she said. “So, I had to take the independence on my own and start to administer my own shots, check my blood sugar and essentially take responsibility for my diagnosis.

“Then always manage school, extracurriculars, life and help around the house when mom couldn’t. And being the older sibling too, I had the responsibility of taking care of my younger sibling as well. I definitely had to grow up pretty fast.”

The sicker Robinson got, the more Nunnelly took on. Her father didn’t need to ask, she knew her role. He was grieving as his long-time partner grew sicker and sicker, yet still had a successful small business to run. It was challenging for him to do everything and Nunnelly made certain he didn’t have to.  

She understood what was happening to her family and she naturally stepped in to do many of the things her mom no longer could do.

That included taking on a motherly role with Claire. Nunnelly continues to support her younger sister like a parent would, and she takes great pride in who Claire has become. She’s a strong student and a good person and Nunnelly isn’t shy to let people know that she “raised that girl.”

She did all of this while their mom withered away.

“Watching my mom go through that was very, very difficult,” Nunnelly said. “Those last few months were really hard. She was also one of the most resilient people I ever knew. She was always positive throughout the process. She would always say ‘It is what it is.’ That’s always stuck with me.”

Success at STLCC

Nunnelly AwardThose who know Nunnelly will tell you that she’s an unusual teenager. She carries herself with grace and confidence that normally comes with age. She’s consistent and reliable and can always be counted on to do what’s needed.

She’s almost – almost – a straight-A student. Only a B in her sophomore geometry class keeps her from the coveted 4.0 grade point average as far as St. Louis Public Schools is concerned. But she’s maintained an unblemished record at STLCC and, because her college classes are weighted, she’s scheduled to graduate with a 4.5 GPA from Metro High School.

The Missouri Community College Association honored her as an All-Missouri Academic Second Team Scholar in late April.

None of this surprises Sandra Arumugam-Osburn, Ed.D., who witnessed her student’s maturity, stability and presence firsthand as a professor and as the advisor for the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at STLCC-Forest Park.  

Nunnelly, who serves as the PTK chapter’s vice president of scholarship and service, wrote a research paper for a composition class that focused on the lack of access to menstrual products for people from less-affluent areas. She parlayed that research into a project with the honor society.

The PTK chapter held a drive in March during which they collected donations of menstrual products to provide for those in need. The effort was so successful that there are now free products in every bathroom on the STLCC-Forest Park campus.

“Addi’s scholarly work and leadership has had a great impact on our Phi Theta Kappa chapter and the College,” Arumugam-Osburn said. “She has set a high bar for future chapter officers.”

The College Experience

STLCC served Nunnelly perfectly for where she found herself going into her junior year in high school. She had outgrown the normal experience of her age group and wanted to find a setting where people wanted everyone to succeed and encouraged one another.

She found that at St. Louis Community College.

She also realized she doesn’t know what kind of work she wants to do for the rest of her life. Even though she plans to major in sociology at UMKC, what she will do for a living is still up in the air. STLCC gave her the perfect platform to see all of her possibilities.  

“Being able to explore a lot of different interests has been a really big part of my enjoyment of taking classes at Forest Park,” she said. “I decided to become a sociology major after taking one sociology class with Dr. (Andrea) Nichols, which I loved.

“The independence that I have here is really nice. Obviously, a college setting is a lot different than a high school setting. Because I am an Early College student, there’s a lot of independence and trust that students are given. There’s a level of independence students are granted but also a constant level of support that a lot of professors provide.”

As she wraps up her first two years of college and her final days of high school, Nunnelly is excited about what awaits her in the future. She just wishes her mom could be here to enjoy it with her.

But there is no doubt what Myrna Robinson would think about her daughter.

“She’d be in tears. She’d be so proud,” Nunnelly said. “Especially because of my ability to still persevere through school while also grieving the loss of her. I never let that interfere with my schoolwork or my ability to carry out my day-to-day life.

“I know it’s different for everyone, their grieving process and their support systems. At the end of the day, I kept going. I knew my mom wouldn’t want me to dwell on the loss of her. I knew she’d want me to keep going and make her and my dad proud, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

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