Graduation is always a time for families to celebrate accomplishments of loved ones, but for Nina Bibbo and her dad, Robert, this year’s commencement is even more special.
Tonight, the daddy-daughter duo will graduate with honor from Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast.
“We didn’t know how the timing was going to work out, Nina said. “He came in a semester or two after I started, so we didn’t know about the timeline for sure.
“We hoped we could graduate together, but we weren’t sure.”
The Bibbos will join their 1,240 classmates as two of Ivy Tech’s newest graduates during the 44th annual commencement ceremony at Memorial Coliseum.
Robert, 48, will graduate with an associate degree in computer information technology.
“I’ve just always been sort of a geek and computer nerd,” he said with a laugh.
Nina, 21, will graduate with an associate degree in respiratory care and a 4.0 grade-point average – something Robert can’t help but brag about.
“He’s proud of me, I guess,” the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl said.
It’s been a winding road to graduation for both Bibbos.
Nina had her daughter, Iiley, now 4, when she was 16 years old.
Nina dropped out of high school during her sophomore year to care for her, but she knew she wanted to go to college.
“She was born in October, and I started at Ivy Tech the following August.”
Nina said she had taken classes over the summer and earned her GED certification.
The field of health care has always been on her radar, she said.
And respiratory care seemed like an especially good fit because she’d struggled with asthma as a child.
“She’s lucky that she found something that she loves to do so early in life,” Robert said. “My jobs have always sort of picked me – not the other way around.”
Robert worked at Office Furniture USA, started two companies – Abracadabra Detail and Paintball USA – and had a family before he eventually joined the Army before his 40th birthday.
He served in Iraq from December 2008 to December 2012 as a specialist in the 76th infantry brigade combat team.
But when he returned, he decided it was time to start down a new path.
Robert said coming to Ivy Tech and participating in its New Venture Competition – which he won in 2013 – has been “one of the highlights of my life.”
The New Venture Competition awards a student or alumnus entrepreneur with funding to help start a business.
Robert won last year’s contest and $20,000 for his company American Combat Veteran Clothing, which offers military-themed clothing and accessories.
His goal is to employ only veterans, and he plans to donate 20 percent of all profits to nonprofit veterans organizations such as Operation Honor Our Heroes and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Although the Bibbos would love to walk across the stage together at graduation, Ivy Tech guides students through commencement by areas of study and not alphabetically, Nina explained.
But that won’t dull the excitement of seeing each other pick up a diploma and turning their tassels together.
“I just keep picturing that picture that we’ll take after graduation, with us in our honor cords standing together,” Nina said, turning to her father, who smiled.
“That’s going to be pretty cool.”