For Cobi Heron, persistence is finishing your bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Bowie State University after he dropped out because of poor grades, turning his adversity into his strength. A post-graduation job with the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, as well as a U.S. Army Research Laboratory internship, are his prizes for never giving up and never giving in.
Originally from California, Heron came to Bowie State to become the first in his family to earn a college degree. He joined the Bulldog Scholars Academy the summer before freshman year to get a head start on his classes. After failing to prioritize his grades in his first year, he left the university. For the next two years, he worked his way back, taking classes at a community college. Once he re-enrolled at BSU, he was determined to get on the right track. He made it to the Dean’s List in that first semester and continued to build momentum.
“With being a first-generation college student, there was a heavy weight on my shoulders. Everyone is depending on me to be the one to carry the torch across the finish line, so I just felt like I had to go back and finish,” he said. “Bowie State was literally that life buoy that was thrown out there for me to have an opportunity to change the trajectory of my life and those around me.”
Turning around his grades opened doors of opportunity at BSU. He spent a semester at a Chinese university, traveled to Ghana on an educational trip, did a Summer Undergraduate Research Institute project on the mathematical concept of quantum walks and joined a Department of Energy research program on renewable energy with BSU faculty. Heron’s global experiences made a deep impression.
“Everyone should take these types of opportunities to expand your horizons and get to see different cultures, so you get a greater understanding of what it’s like to be a global citizen,” he said. “I’ve learned that I have a niche for networking. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve made a lifelong connection to where I know that I’m welcome back with open arms.”
He later landed the full-time Lockheed Martin job, helping to negotiate contracts for contractors. He also secured the 10-week summer internship with the Army Research Laboratory, shadowing a directorate to learn leadership skills.
Heron eventually plans to earn a doctoral degree in electrical engineering and start a hands-on STEM pipeline program for minority students.
“I’m big on paying it forward. I feel like I’ve been blessed to be able to experience some things, and I’d just like to see that same opportunity for others,” he said. “Adversity builds character. College isn’t easy. I knew the only way to finish what I started was through persistence – that was the key.”