Dalia Ali-Khan has worked two jobs and pursued scholarships to stay in college. She sought out tutoring when she needed it and regularly pushed herself beyond her comfort zone. It’s a level of perseverance driven not only by career ambitions, but also something more profound.
“I was diagnosed at 16 with generalized anxiety disorder after suffering debilitating panic attacks multiple times a day,” says the 2017 graduate of Clintondale High School. “I want to make sure that no one ever feels the way I felt. Alone and terrified.”
Ali-Kahn earned an Associate of General Studies degree from Macomb in 2019 and transferred to Oakland University. She is majoring in social work, with a minor in philosophy, and intends to earn bachelor and master degrees.
“My career goals are to become a clinical social worker and advocate for accessible mental health services in public K-12 schools and community colleges,” says Ali-Kahn. “I want students to have access to mental health services so they do not have to fight to get the help that they need.”
When Ali-Khan enrolled at Macomb, the panic attacks had eroded her confidence to the point that she was “terrified” of failing. She confided her fears to some of her professors and they immediately went into action. They tutored her in math and connected her with mental health professionals who helped silence the negative voices that told her to give up. That she read from her own poetry at a Macomb event, was elected president of the Argument Clinic (a student club that explores philosophical questions) and was one of two graduates chosen to give a speech at the December 2019 commencement, indicates how far she has come.
“My experience at Macomb was really life changing. There are professors who truly want you to succeed,” relates Ali-Khan. “They recognized qualities in me that I couldn’t see. With every ‘I know you can do it,’ I started to believe them.”
Most recently, Ali-Khan received the Nido Qubein Scholarship from the National Speakers Association, sharing with her benefactor a character born of perseverance. Nido Qubein emigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East as a teenager and knowing little English. An alum of High Point University, Qubein is now its president and a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, which honors Americans who have overcome diversity.
“Every time my mind is screaming at me to give up, I remember that there are people out there rooting for me,” says Ali-Khan. “Even if I cannot see them, I know they are there and that I am strong enough to get through whatever life throws my way.”