GSU Story Slam title goes to Faith Mallaki

Maria Murillo and Sedona Smith, Staff Writers

Faith Mallaki took top honors in GSU’s inaugural Story Slam competition, taking home the $250 first prize.  

Second place went to Ryan Cuellar, who received $150, and Nuha Abdessalam won $100 as the third-place finisher. 

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 did not happen as expected.  

Six students took part in the first round, and Ryan Cuellar, Faith Mallaki, and Isabella Mikillla moved on to the finals. Mikilla chose not to take part in the Grand Slam.  

“We (the organizers) invited the storyteller with the next highest score, that was Nuha Abdessalam,” said Dr. Pagone. 

Abdessalam, a media studies major, shared her story about a 3,000-pound rhinoceros. She shared how she enjoyed her father’s work stories. She told the audience, “I thought he was a ninja. My dad always carried a baseball bat in his trunk. He is a taxi driver.”  

Before COVID, she was a veterinary tech, but she was laid off. By July 2020, her dad asked her “What are you going to do about this?” She told him she did not know. He was clutching something and said, “Be prepared to figure it out. This is to protect yourself.” And he gave her the bat. Abdessalam saw an advertisement for GSU and contacted her advisor, even though she had some insecurities. She told the audience “I am terrified, but it will get easier. I have a bat that killed a 3,000-pound rhinoceros.”  

Cuellar talked about his experiences with the criminal justice system, his former drug addiction, and filing for bankruptcy at the age of 21, as well how one inmate’s results helped him change his life. Cuellar discussed how his friend made him realize that he needed to change or be part of the system. He is now a 24-year-old pre-law student at GSU. He said 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. 

Students told the same story during the second event as they did during the first, but the idea is that there would be a significant improvement to the way the story was told because students received one-on-one help from professors between the first and second event.  

“We’re so inspired by the students and their willingness to share their stories,” said Dr. Morris.  

The Phoenix team congratulates the winners and applauds the hard work of the faculty organizers that made the event possible.