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The Beauty of Resilience: Ebony’s Journey to Success

Ebony DicksNot every path to earning a college degree is wrapped up in four years or with a neat bow. But thanks to her drive and ambition, Ebony Jean Dicks (B.S.’24, University Studies) graduated from Western Michigan University in 2024.

Ebony was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune hair loss disorder, at the age of 4. Since her diagnosis, she’s faced adversity and a stigma perpetuated by a lack of understanding among her peers. “Throughout my childhood, I watched my hair fall out and grow back with no explanation. There was nothing much I could do about it,” she said.

For a long time, Ebony wondered if her hair loss and the mistreatment she endured would hinder her from attaining a college education. Nevertheless, she persisted, arriving at Western as a freshman in 2012. “I remember stepping foot on campus for the very first time; it immediately felt like home,” she said.

Ebony’s college journey was abruptly interrupted at the end of her first year in 2013. Despite challenges and obstacles, she never gave up on her goal of graduating from WMU. When the opportunity to continue her education arose, she jumped at the chance. She was awarded the WMU Achievement Grant, which helped her overcome financial hardships and return to Western in 2021. Shortly thereafter, she received a scholarship through the College of Arts and Sciences in 2022.

“I came back as a completely inspired person, learning from my life experiences and also the growth and maturity that happened over time,” she said. “I’m very grateful that I was able to come back and finish what I started.”

While her first major was communication studies, Ebony ultimately made the decision to obtain her degree in university studies because of the diversity in classes and the ability to customize her degree in ways that could open up doors for future job opportunities.

She encourages anyone weighing whether to pursue or continue their education to take the leap, no matter how out of reach it may seem. 

Ebony Graduate“It is never too late. Don’t let your circumstances stop you from pursuing your education. I know at times it can be very frustrating because life sometimes has a way of rerouting our plans, and that’s been me quite a few times, Ebony said.

“Each time I tried to go back to college, I would always get stopped by something. I’ve dealt with a lot of extenuating circumstances, and especially within my family,” she continued. “There were times I had to take a break and figure out what I really wanted to do, and to collect my thoughts, just figure out my direction in life. But if you are looking to finish your education, please continue. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you.”

Ebony went public with her story in 2016. Since then, she’s traveled across the country speaking on her experiences as a member of the Alopecia Areata community.

“What I chose to do, instead of allowing people to define who I am or to try to limit what I can do in life, I took my power back by becoming an advocate,” she said.

As an advocate for hair loss awareness, Ebony has shared her story at national conferences and met with legislators on Capitol Hill. She even had the opportunity to connect with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, another member of the Alopecia Areata community.

Beyond her speaking engagements, Ebony is also a content creator and beauty influencer, dedicated to normalizing and raising awareness for her condition. Most recently, she was involved in a partnership with Jostens and received her customized 2024 class ring while filming for them on campus.

Thank you for sharing your story and for making a difference, Ebony! Your resilience and courage are inspiring. We can’t wait to see what’s next for you, Bronco! Ebony at WMU

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[Another story brought to you by Elliot VerLee, a student we're so grateful to have with us here right now at the WMU Alumni Association. Keep up the great work, Elliot!]