July 24, 2014

The Power of Tenacity at EMU

Senior social work major triumphs at Eastern despite early setback

by Linda Hass, Published February 05, 2014

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Ebony Walls

Ebony Walls, an Eastern Michigan University senior, has a special message for current and prospective students: “Never give up; believe in yourself; and take advantage of all the support services at your disposal.” This philosophy not only helped the friendly yet tenacious Muskegon resident to win multiple scholarships and service awards, it empowered her to overcome a serious health issue she faced while pursuing her degree.

“I hope my trials to triumph story inspires others and reminds them of the power of tenacity,” says Walls, who is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work this spring. But a few months into her freshman year, her dreams of graduation were almost shattered when she became ill with the swine flu and severe bronchitis. Walls attempted to attend class in spite of her condition, until her doctor put her on bed rest.

“It was devastating to watch my student status change from “good standing” to “probation 2” she says, adding that she had to miss four months of school.

Walls was plunging into an academic free fall when university support services offered a parachute and a plan to get her back on track. Advisers helped her choose a major that fit her interests and abilities and helped her narrow course selections to fit that academic track. They also provided generous doses of encouragement and career counseling along the way.

“Ebony impressed me the minute I met her,” says Lorraine McKnight, a senior career coach at the University Advising & Career Development Center. “She’s a very goal-oriented person who wants to leave a legacy and help others along the way. She has what I call that sparkle of humanity,” adds McKnight, who has advised Walls for several years.

Once healthy, a newly-inspired Walls decided to retake the classes she failed and enroll in summer school.  “I went to school all year-round for two years while working two to four jobs. It was challenging, but gave me renewed appreciation for the value of education,” she says, adding that she was accepted into EMU’s Honors College her junior year.

Walls has also flourished socially, contributing over 1,000 volunteer hours in various extra-curricular activities. “I have gained much from Eastern, including scholarships that made my attendance possible. Volunteering is my way of sharing my riches with the world while gaining much more in return,” says Walls, a graduate of EMU’s Emerging Leader Series and LeaderShape Program.  She also served as program coordinator for the EMU VISION Pen Pals Mentoring Program and was president of an EMU residence hall leadership advisory board, having been named “President of the Year.”

In addition, the Americorps Scholar was a recipient of theMLK Student Humanitarian Award; won the Miss Michigan Coed Scholarship Pageant Competition for 2013; and recently competed in the National Miss American Coed Scholarship Pageant Competition, placing in the top five for the academic achievement award.

After graduation in April 2014, Walls plans to pursue a master’s degree in global social work and ultimately work for a non-profit organization.

Geoff Larcom

glarcom@emich.edu

734.487.4400

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