Woman who overcame odds inspires with her CMU graduation story

- A Detroit native walks the stage to accept her degree from Central Michigan University - but the journey to get there wasn't easy.
 
What she went through would have made many give up, but she persevered - and her story has gone viral on social media.

"In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you," said Ericka Magee.

And they did not just shape Ericka Magee -- they forged her, helping the 22-year-old obtain a college degree despite overwhelming odds summed up perfectly in this now viral Facebook post.

FOX 2: "Did you ever think you would be in this position?"

"Not really," she said.

Ericka was pegged as dyslexic when she was 6 years old -- but her mother was determined she beat the disorder.

"My mom was like, 'You're dyslexic and you're going to read every day,'" Magee said. "Those were her exact words."

They beat dyslexia together but six years later Ericka's mom would lose her bout with cancer.

"For a minute I didn't even talk in school," she said. "People thought I was a mute because I didn't talk. It put me in a really dark
place."

It would be a while before she'd see the light again. Ericka lived in foster care for three months before her father gained custody of her.

He later lost his home in foreclosure. They spent a few nights sleeping in a car. then months bouncing from home to home living with relatives.

"I kind of realized it once I was staying with my aunt and uncle," she said. "I'm like why aren't we going home? I kept asking and he finally told me, 'We don't have a home.'"

They eventually landed on their feet settling in the Berg Lahser neighborhood on Detroit's west side.

Then, in 2015 while she was a student at CMU, Ericka's father died of cancer.

"Losing him was really hard for me because that was my best friend," she said.

Ericka was devastated and on the verge of dropping out of school until her big brother intervened.

FOX 2: "What did you tell her when she wanted to leave CMU when your dad passed away?"

"Do not leave," Aaron Magee said. "Our father's three favorite words (were) 'Make it happen.' Don't talk about it, make it happen."

So, she did, earning a bachelor's degree in social work and in a few weeks she'll begin working on her master's degree at Wayne State so she can help kids in the dark places she once inhabited.

"I want to be that person not only just a social worker, 'Hey, I'm here you can talk with me.' but I want to be that person like, 'Hey, I've been through it,'" she said.

Ericka's story is one of resilience and could be summed up with Tennyson's words: "Though much is taken, much abides."

"I have a long way to go still," she said.
 

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