Clift Elementary students began their week with an inspirational message from a National Football League player and a published author — who both just so happened to graduate within the Waxahachie ISD school system.

Male students heard from Aldrick Robinson, an eight-year veteran in the NFL, while the female students were inspired by Shaniece J. Miller, the assistant director of graduate admissions at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In each speech, both presenters discussed they overcoming in adversity to reach their successes. They also admitted former history teacher and current WISD school board member, Kim Kriegel, played a prominent role in their post-high school achievements.

Robinson explained he grew up faster than his classmates as he dealt with the divorce of this parents and being raised by a single mother.

“That helped me, motivated me to be a better man that I am today,” Robinson said. “I was making sure that I was doing everything to the best ability that I could.”

Aldrick was studious in high school and shared that Kriegel played a prominent role in his transition into college, where he attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It was uncommon in the Robinson family to enroll in college and was not provided the tools to get him where he needed to be as athletic scholarships were offered. Kriegel encouraged him in his preparation for the SAT and applications.

Robinson, who is currently an unsigned free agent, has appeared in 84 NFL games over his eight-year career. He has 86 receptions for 1,422 yards and 14 touchdowns during tenures with the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

As for Miller, she expressed her setbacks in elementary to the current students as well. Miller also serves as a professor teaching at the university. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University and a master's degree in education from Angelo State University. Currently, Miller is expected to graduate with her doctorate in higher education and policy in December 2020.

“I’m going to be president of a university one day,” Miller expressed.

Even though Miller thrives in the field of education, she has not always succeeded in all subjects.

“I struggled in math, and there were times I wouldn’t do well, and that would discourage me from not doing anything,” Miller explained. “It wasn’t until when I was in high school that I realized that I wanted to become a teacher.”

The stresses related to mathematical equations and formulas, at times, stripped Miller of her confidence and hopes of succeeding in life. In the long haul, her weakness did not allow her struggles with math to interfere with her future.

“I use that as a springboard to go to higher heights. I am very transparent of my weakness, and it didn’t stop me,” Miller said.

Both speakers made themselves vulnerable when speaking to the Clift students, relating to the youngsters on a human level by admitting their struggles and reassuring that those hardships do not define the person.

“It’s nothing to let your guard down because it actually allows you to see all the flaws that you need to see,” Robinson said. “We all have them."

As Miller spoke to the students in the library, she said, “It was like looking in a mirror, and I remember being their age.” Miller said she aspires to be more like the educator Kriegel was by genuinely engaging in her students’ lives.

“The reason why I enjoyed what I did today is because kids are still human and they need to understand that they can feel all the emotions and can come from single-parent households and all these things working against them and still become people like Al and me,” Miller stressed.

Kriegel was on campus watching her former students inspire the future generations and expressed her appreciation.

“Both of them were phenomenal and hope that they give the kids the mindset that they can do whatever they choose to do,” Kriegel said.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450