By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Ebony Dixon had no idea what she was in for when searching for scholarships for her senior year.
According to Dixon, a senior theatre and political science double major at the University of Mary Washington, she was looking up different scholarships online, including scholarships provided by celebrities, when she found a scholarship by the Shawn Carter Foundation.
Carter, more commonly known as Jay Z, has sold over 75 million records according to iHeart Radio, and started the scholarship program with his mother Gloria in 2003.
The mission of the scholarship is to “help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning,” according to the SCF website.
The SCF has provided over $1.7 million in scholarships to 750 individuals.
Dixon is now one of those individuals, but beating out 500,000 other applicants for the scholarship was not easy.
The application process took place in three steps over the course of several months. Dixon first had to submit an initial application that included an essay, resume, her cumulative GPA and general information.
Dixon was notified in April by the SCF that she was a finalist for the award but had to submit her FAFSA and financial information. At the end of July, Dixon got the news that she had won the award while working on UMW’s theatre production of “Always…Patsy Cline.” Before she could obtain the award, or scholarship, she had to send the foundation her school information and fill out media releases.
Dixon received the scholarship money four weeks after she gave them her school information.
It was fitting that she would win the scholarship while working in the theatre, as it is one of her passions, as well as one of her majors.
Dixon plans to either join the Peace Corps, apply for law school or pursue a theatre career on Broadway after graduation, but making the choice for her future has not been easy.
“It’s completely dependent on my mood,” Dixon said. “I know I should have it figured out by now, being a senior.”
While deciding, Dixon has thrown herself into leadership roles in the subjects that she loves. She is the executive of UMW’s Pre-Law Society, as well as House Manager for the Theatre Department’s upcoming production of “Doubt,” which will have its first showing on Thursday, Sept. 25.
In addition to a passion for theatre, Dixon also loves music and is the vice president of “Voices of Praise,” a UMW group centered on gospel music.
Dixon’s hard work has paid off in more ways than one, and has made her the recipient of not one, but two scholarships.
Shortly after hearing about winning the SCF scholarship, Dixon received news that the Klein Theatre would be putting her name on the wall for winning the Albert Klein Memorial Scholarship for the 2014-2015 year.
“It took me completely by surprise,” Dixon said. “I was way more excited about winning that scholarship than the other one.”
Despite receiving recognition from an international superstar, Dixon gains more satisfaction out of being recognized by her school.
“I have worked really hard in this theatre since I transferred to UMW,” said Dixon, who previously attended Mary Baldwin College. “Being able to be recognized for how hard I’ve worked, even though I haven’t been here for the full four years, has been really encouraging.”
Dixon won the award, she said, “by the grace of God,” and credits her mother, friends and father for her drive to succeed and for the success that she has already had.
“What keeps me going is that my dad died a few years ago. I do what I do for him. I do it for myself. For the community,” Dixon said.
Dixon encourages other students to pursue their own interest and play to their strengths.
“It’s important to be yourself and to do what you do because you do it best,” Dixon said.
Through her hard work, Dixon was recognized by both an international celebrity and her own university.
“It’s exciting though,” Dixon said. “My friends have laughed at me and said that I’m famous now. But I feel normal.”