3 Students Advance to Final Round of GSU’s First Story Slam

Sedona Smith and Maria Murillo, Staff Writers

Governors State hosted its first-ever “Story Slam” on April 1, and three students edged their competitors to advance to the final round, scheduled for April 15. 

Funded by the Intellectual Life grant and organized by faculty members Deborah James, Kerri Morris, and Novia Pagone, the event provided the students with a platform to share their stories. The event theme was “Curveball,” meaning that students’ stories had to involve a time in which life didn’t happen as expected. 

Six students participated in the first round, and Ryan Cuellar, Faith Mallaki, and Isabella Mikilla moved on to the finals.  

Cuellar talked about his experiences with the criminal justice system, his former drug addiction, and filing for bankruptcy at the age of 21. He is now a 24-year-old pre-law student at GSU. He says that school has helped him progress, but that he believes “every person needs to go to jail at least once.”  

Mallaki arrived in the United States just a year and a half ago. She survived an abusive relationship in Morocco, lost custody of her son after being remarried, and later escaped the country with her son after secretly applying for a visa and telling her sister-in-law that she was taking a “field trip” to Spain. She is now studying English with the goal of becoming a domestic violence social worker. 

Mikilla detailed her experiences in living with an anxiety disorder. She told the audience about the ways she controls anxiety; she enjoys writing poetry, talking, streaming video games, and crocheting. Mikilla also said that she fits in well at GSU because it is a small school that does not feel overwhelming or overcrowded. 

Dr. Pagone explained that the winners from the first event will have the opportunity to be coached. “We have professors that are experienced in storytelling and [they] are willing to help students tell their stories [while] propagating them to make them even better.”  

Students are required to tell the same story during the second event as they did during the first, but the idea is that there will be a significant improvement to the way the story is told after students receive one-on-one help from professors.  

Cuellar, Mallaki, and Mikilla will compete for cash prizes of $250, $150, and $100 during the championship round which starts at 6 p.m. on April 15.  

The championship round may be accessed using the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84760033345