Meet Sumayyah Muhammad ’22, a student majoring in Journalism with a concentration in Magazine Media from Bloomington, Illinois. She loves writing, media, and getting involved with the stories she tells, working for both Ball Bearings Magazine and The Ball State Daily News. After graduation, she hopes to freelance as a journalist and travel blogger or work in public relations. In this blog, Sumayyah writes about how her experience with the Immersive Learning Program challenged her to step out of her comfort zone.
As a student journalist for Ball State, I have worked with many people in Muncie to share their stories with the community. It’s important to get out into the community to see the problems among us and to share those stories with the greater community.
In 2019, the College of Communication, Information, and Media piloted the university’s first Immersive Learning Collaborative, a multi-year, college-wide partnership with one community partner. That partner is the 8twelve Coalition, a team of more than 20 nonprofits and neighborhood associations that work to improve the quality of life in the South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhoods in Muncie. Because of this partnership, some of my journalism classes have focused on storytelling in this area — to share the untold stories of an underserved area. I have welcomed this charge because it gets me out of my comfort zone on campus and into the work I hope to do when I graduate.
Last spring, I wrote a story about community-building happening at The Common Market on the south side of Muncie. The corner shop’s owner, Kory Gipson, works to build strong relationships with other business owners and neighbors in the community. He said the market serves as a gathering place for a part of town that is underserved and often misunderstood: “It’s undesirable. Nobody wants to be down here because when you get down here, it’s rough. Nobody takes care of the outside of their businesses,” he added. Meeting people like Gibson and going to places like The Common Market has gotten me off campus and exposed me to stories that are complex and rewarding.
I also wrote a story about In & Out Cleaning Services, which is a business that hires recovering addicts and people with criminal backgrounds. I had no idea about this business or others like it, and I learned so much about the challenges that addicts and people with records face when trying to get back on their feet. It is my hope that my story helped readers understand that these employees want a second chance and are working hard to gain respect and advocate for other recovering addicts and people with criminal backgrounds.
Owner Josh Arthur, who also serves as a pastor at Avondale United Methodist Church, said the store is a place for employees to empower each other to improve their lives. “Sometimes an employee interacts in a courtroom on behalf of someone else, and they will say, ‘Don’t send them to jail. We need them here, they’re valuable,” said owner Josh Arthur. “Sometimes they stood before that same judge, themselves, and they get to say: ‘Here’s where I was, and here’s where I am now. I’m asking for that opportunity for this person.”
Getting out into the community introduced me to other story ideas, including my piece about one of the only Black hair salons in Muncie. Meraki Style Studio has operated since October 2020 and serves mostly African American clients. The story gave readers a glimpse into how three local hairstylists from different salons were adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions. With a small percentage of Black students at Ball State, it is important for that population to feel seen in student media and to know where they can go for simple things like hair care.
It’s important to get out into the community to share these stories because the locals are passionate about where they live and appreciate writers who take the time to shed light on the problems and promises of that community.