This feature first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
If it's true that shyness is nothing more than a lack of confidence in doing something, then each one of us is shy about something. While there are as many ways of overcoming shyness as there are people, one proven method is to try new things — even if they make you feel anxious. The goal, in essence, is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.
Jasmine Robinson, a senior at Center Point High School in Center Point, Ala., is a perfect example of living this principle. A self-described "shy person," Jasmine has learned that the best path to overcoming doubts and fears is to face them head-on.
Jasmine claims that her greatest accomplishment is overcoming a fear of heights. While attending Busch Gardens in Orlando, Fla., a friend's mom challenged her to ride every rollercoaster in the park. "I was terrified of heights but I did it," she said. "And by the end of the night, I was ready for any coaster."
This is how she lives her life, staring down her doubts and always looking ahead. She has also ridden the renowned zip lines located in Kentucky's Mega Cavern, which are in places as high as 70 feet off the ground. "I still haven't conquered my fear of heights enough to go skydiving," she said. "I want to do it one day, but not just yet."
A master juggler — of commitments
For a young lady who also "suffers stage fright" when doing something in front of others, Jasmine is involved in a surprising number of social activities — and she's good at all of them.
During her junior year at Center Point, Jasmine was an active participant at the Joint Leadership Development Conference; won first place at the state level for SkillsUSA in networking (and competed at the national level); served as vice president of both Center Point's National Technical Honor Society and its Chi Sigma Rho Sorority; and served as treasurer of the Computer Club, a member of the National Honor Society, and a Center Point Ambassador, representing a student organization that serves at a local farmer's market each Thursday.
Oh yeah, and she also did all of that while putting in more than 30 hours each week as a shift leader at a local restaurant. At 17, Jasmine is not yet old enough to be an actual manager, but that will surely come after her next birthday.
With all the demands on her time, one has to wonder how she fits everything in: Jasmine is a big believer in making and keeping a schedule. The first thing she does each morning is reach for her planner.
"Each morning, I immediately schedule out my day," she said. "I give myself a time frame for everything I have to do that day and I stick to it. That way I don't miss anything and I can get a lot done."
Sucked in by technology
Jasmine is also an up-and-coming IT professional who has already earned certifications for CompTIA IT Fundamentals and TestOut Corporation's PC Pro and Network Pro, as well as passing the first half of the CompTIA A+ certification exam, 220- 901. She is now studying for the other half, 220-902.
With a love of technology, and a desire for a tech-fueled career, Jasmine appreciates certifications for the "amazing opportunities" they provide and as path to a successful career. "Certifications provide an enormous amount of room for learning and growth on an educational and personal level," she said.
Her introduction to information technology (IT) came when she attempted to enroll in an electronics class. Instead of electronics, the counselor placed her in one of Rick Shirley's IT classes. Shirley, Center Point's IT coordinator, has a well-deserved reputation of requiring a lot from his students, and Jasmine's peers warned her to drop the class.
"I tried to get out of the class, but Mr. Shirley wouldn't let me," she said.
Not one to be intimidated by hard work, Jasmine energetically tackled the subject matter and soon realized that she had a real talent for IT. While the workload was heavy, and the pace demanding, she jumped in with both feet. "I complain about the class, but in actuality I do love it," she said.
Over the past three years, Shirley has become a mentor to Jasmine and speaks highly of her accomplishments in and out of class. "Jasmine has a sense of wonder about the world that makes her want to know everything," he said. "Fortunately, she also possesses the desire to pursue that wonder, and the determination to follow through in that pursuit."
Jasmine is likewise inspired by Shirley's knowledge of IT and does her best to emulate him. "You can ask Mr. Shirley anything about computers and he will always have the right answer. I want to be like that."
Driven to compete
Although IT is still largely a "guy's field," Shirley's classes are "atypically mostly female." Over the past seven years his IT classes have averaged 56 percent female. The average for advanced second-year classes is an amazing 63 percent female. And the girls more than hold their own. In 2016, one of his students competed at the national level of SkillsUSA.
Shirley utilizes TestOut courseware in his classes and finds that it gives his students crucial IT knowledge. "One of the members of my advisory committee remarked that their new employees, with 3-to-4 years of IT experience, had to be trained in tasks that my students were already doing with TestOut," he said.
"LabSim is an extremely valuable resource for my students to learn IT skills because it provides them with actual hands-on experience."
Always on the lookout for promising talent, and hoping to spark Jasmine's interest in competing, Shirley took her along to SkillsUSA as an observer in 2016. His plan worked. This past year, Jasmine won gold at the SkillsUSA state-level competition for networking and went on to compete at nationals.
She described the thrill of winning at the state level as an "amazing experience" and the culmination of her efforts. "I felt that all of my hard work and dedication had finally paid off," she said. "I felt that it was the start of a new beginning because I knew that it would open doors for me."
Jasmine is particularly skilled in networking. She recalls how one project required the disassembling and reassembling of a computer and how it helped build her knowledge and confidence. "It was tough," she said. "I had to take a computer completely apart, identify all of the components, model numbers and such, and then put it back together in just 80 minutes."
She doesn't remember what her grade was for the project, but admits that completing it gave her confidence "a real boost."
Jasmine hopes to win again at SkillsUSA in the upcoming school year, and return for another shot at nationals. As part of her preparation for 2017-2018, she plans to earn TestOut's Security Pro and Routing and Switching Pro certifications, as well as working toward a CCNA.
Her advice for students working toward certification is to take things slow — and hang in there. "Trying to retain every bit of information can sometimes be a bit overwhelming," she said. "You may want to give up but don't. Keep going because it'll all be worth it in the end."
All in the family
Hard work and dedication are traits Jasmine picked up on from her parents, Mitchell and Darlene, who both work in healthcare. She also receives a constant dose of encouragement from both her dad and older sister, Christina, who constantly remind her to, "Keep going. Don't put things off; get them done now."
Despite her inhibitions, Jasmine does like to regularly step out of her comfort zone to grow and improve. "There are lots of things that I'm afraid of, but life is short, so I take risks and do things I'm not used to doing," she said.
In addition to school, where she maintains a 3.8 GPA — all while preparing for SkillsUSA and serving in several clubs — Jasmine rushes off to work every afternoon and stays busy until 10 or 11 p.m. each night.
Jennifer Barrett, Jasmine's general manager, is impressed by her drive and determination. "Since I've known Jasmine, I've seen her blossom into a beautiful and strong young lady. A very strong young lady in my eyes. Her mind and determination are different from a lot of kids her age, which I find POWERFUL!" she said.
"Jasmine has a will to get things done, doesn't hesitate to ask if she doesn't know something, and isn't at all afraid to stand alone if it's what she believes in. She's a very sweet and generous young lady and I love her to pieces."
Never not busy
Once her shift is over, Jasmine heads home to finish her school work. Education is important to her. Her plans include attending either Auburn University or the University of Alabama. "Both schools have great engineering programs, but Alabama does have a better football team," she said laughingly.
In her spare time, Jasmine enjoys singing, dancing, doodling cartoon characters, and tinkering with broken things to try to fix them. With such a busy schedule, she particularly likes to catch up on her sleep when possible. "I'm so busy that I don't get enough sleep and like to do it whenever I can," she said.
Jasmine is a practicing Christian and weekly attends the Upper Room Fellowship Church in Birmingham, where she sings in the choir. When asked who she would most like to meet, she quickly responded, "God! There are so many times I wish I could have a face-to-face conversation with him about everything that's going on in my life," she said.
"I go through so much sometimes and he could give me advice on a lot of things."
The tenets of Jasmine's faith are reflected in her desires to improve herself and help others. "What motivates me to get up in the morning is a constant hunger for success," she said.
"I always want to do better than I did yesterday, whether it's my job, my career, or even just doing things around the community. I want to be a person that makes a positive difference. Regardless of how difficult it may be, I always tell myself that it'll all be worth it in the end. Patience is key."
An old Chinese proverb states: "A girl may be shy as a mouse, but beware of the tiger within." That's a perfect description of Jasmine Robinson.