Mother gets back on track with job, home for family

After decades of hard knocks, Dakima Hicks is swinging back in a fashion of her own design.

The 35-year-old single mother of five weathered a rocky childhood, marriage and impulsive life decisions, one of which landed her temporarily homeless on Las Vegas streets.

But that's all behind her, and what lies ahead is a summer filled with cosmetology triumphs, including traveling to New York for an all-expenses paid, seven-day course with celebrity stylist Nick Arrojo.

"I wanted a better life," she said.

Hicks' story began in Detroit, where she was the middle child and in the eye of a tumultuous relationship between her parents. She dropped out of high school and her first go-round with cosmetology school and married young.

She had five children in seven years -- Teirra, Terrell, Tyre, Tianna and Takyra -- who are now between 8 and 15.

Hicks focused on raising them until 2006, when she started her own fashion line. She has aspirations to expand her line, a move that led to a spontaneous decision to haul her kids, her sister and her sister's two children to New York, where the line was produced.

They didn't have money or a place to stay or any way to fund her collection. A well-timed friend called Hicks and said she had a dream that Hicks was in need and sent her enough money to pull off the trip.

Hicks returned to Detroit but decided a new start was necessary.

By July 2008, Hicks had let go of her clothing line and set her sights on Las Vegas, where she wanted to study fashion further at trade shows.

In quick succession, she left her husband and carted her kids across the country to stay with a friend temporarily.

"I was so anxious to follow my dream," she said.

The family bounced around to different living situations and had bouts of homelessness and joblessness. She carted her kids across the valley to attend northwest schools and pursue their extracurricular activities, including basketball.

Her eldest daughter's longtime basketball coach, Katie Lutman, helped Hicks with life skills she had been lacking.

Lutman helped Hicks open a checking account and learn to budget her income. She helped her organize her paperwork to apply for assistance during lean times. Lutman helped Hicks find a pro bono lawyer to secure a divorce from her husband.

"I take for granted most adults have basic skills," Lutman said. "She seemed like a go-getter when I met her."

Other friends, through the basketball team, helped Hicks find work at a preschool and Walmart.

After a year of instability, the mother of one of Hicks' daughter's teammates gave her a call.

"She asked me to tell her my story . I didn't know her," Hicks said. "She said, 'I've noticed your personality. Good things should come to you.' "

The woman, Kathy Denton, opened one of her rental homes near Hicks' children's schools to the family because of that conversation.

"When I looked at Dakima and her family, we connected from that moment," she said. "I ask myself every day if I could do what she does. I see her continuing to be successful."

Soon, Hicks was ready to attend cosmetology school. This spring, she graduated from the Euphoria Institute of Beauty Arts & Sciences and traveled to a hair conference in Chicago, where she was selected to receive a free week of specialized instruction with Arrojo, who owns and operates New York salons and appeared on the TV show "What Not to Wear."

This summer, Hicks will find out the results of her state board examinations and she hopes to finish her GED.

She is waiting to start a job at Jubilee Beauty Gallery, 706 N. Rainbow Blvd.

Then it's time to give back, she said.

"You get tired of asking for help," she said. "I am so happy I completed something for the first time in my life. I want to help myself and give back now that I can."

A table covered in her children's basketball trophies welcomes visitors to the three-bedroom home Hicks is able to provide for her family. She prides herself on her children's drive on the court and in the classroom, as many have stellar report cards.

Hicks said they talk about college often, a nod to her quest for them to walk a different path in life.

She plans to pursue her fashion goals again soon.

"I'm happier than I've ever been," she said. "This has been a lesson learned, but I'm still learning."

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Hicks, email dakima07@gmail.com.