CMU student overcomes adversity to graduate


A woman is turning tragedy into triumph by achieving her dream of becoming a Central Michigan University graduate.

Ericka Magee has faced incredible challenges. She was diagnosed with a learning disorder at a young age and lost both of her parents.

Magee now has a bachelor's degree in social work.

"I remember him saying he wish he could see me graduate because he knew he would be passing on," Magee said.

Even in her grief, Magee knew she had to fulfill her dying father's wish and graduate. She did just that by overcoming a lifetime of adversity.

Magee was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 6. Six years later her mom died of cancer. She spent three months in foster care. Then at 13 she became homeless and sleeping in cars.

Then cancer struck again and claimed her father's life when she was 21.

In spite of all that, Magee earner her degree and shared a Facebook post to celebrate. She was unaware of the impact it would have - 77,000 likes, 32,000 shares and 2,000 comments.

"People were texting me like, 'you're famous!' And I'm like, 'LOL.' I would text them back LOL because I didn't believe it. And I got on there and I was like, 'oh my goodness.'" Magee said.

Just before her dad died, Magee went through even more adversity. She lost her job in 2015. But she caught a break in the form of financial help from CMU.

"I was elated to see the post on Facebook that she graduated and that we could actually help her out," said Bryan Griffin.

Griffin oversees the university's student emergency fund. It's a fund set up by private donors to help students get through the tough financial times to earn their degree.

"We set up the emergency fund to help out students like that," Griffin said.

Meanwhile, at least one faculty member who worked with Magee had no idea of the trouble she faced.

"She did not let her back story or what had happened to her in the past define where she currently is and her leadership on campus and what she's going to do next," Mary Henley said.

As for Magee, she said she just stuck to her goals and never let go of them.

"I don't want anyone to look at me specifically as if I'm a hero or I did something that can't be accomplished. Because it can be accomplished," Magee said.

Magee is now headed to Wayne State University to pursue her master's degree in social work.

Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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