In Passion We Trust: A Profile on Isaiah Hilman-Smalls
June 20, 2023 – Joe Cassero
When colleges highlight students, they often showcase the “Perfect 4.0 GPA student.” But what about the everyday student? The student that might be struggling to get by, whether it be in their classes or in their personal lives. The student that might not be a short commute away from campus. Or the student that goes through the grind of 5+ classes without even knowing how they fit in with their applied major.
Isaiah Hilman-Smalls is the perfect embodiment of that student.
Commuting from Brooklyn to Farmingdale everyday via railroad, Isaiah never let the minor inconveniences of taking the train slow him down. While often facing delays and conflicting train schedules, he was always able to find a way to campus and complete the day’s agenda. Since he wasn’t as close to campus as many other commuter students, Isaiah was sure to make the most of every second on campus. This would include meeting with many professors and officers, spending time with friends on campus, and obviously, completing schoolwork and attending classes as well.
But perhaps his biggest contribution was what he contributed to our club, The Dale News. Without Isaiah, The Dale News would not exist. After joining The Dale News in January 2019, Isaiah contributed many pieces and poems to the club, and spent much of his time sharing the goals of the club with others. Long before The Dale News became an official club, Isaiah always felt that he had a strong supporting cast. “Gregory Francis and Darrien Hunt have seen the process behind the scenes way before The Dale News gained popularity, and their words of encouragement have always motivated me,” Isaiah said before giving credit to others during the beginning of his journey. “Dr. Noel Holton Brathwaite, Dr. Kevin Jordan, and Nicholas Raia guided and supported me from the beginning of my journey and I am grateful for the time spent learning from our experiences.”
While Isaiah will stay humble and credit others throughout his journey, it was truly up to him to keep the dream of The Dale News alive after the Covid pandemic saw the other members of the club graduate. With the other members moving on, Isaiah was thrusted into a leadership role within the club to maintain the club’s image. “When I became in charge of The Dale News, I wanted to prove to myself that I could provide the energy needed to connect students with their ability to express themselves in various forms. Each student has value built from who they are and their many levels of creativity,” he said. It was at this time that Isaiah really embraced his position as Chief Correspondent of The Dale News, where he was in charge of running the club’s Instagram account, recruiting members to contribute pieces, editing submissions, and posting them on the website, all while balancing out his own responsibilities and classwork.
From an outsider’s perspective, the club may have seemed a bit disorganized, but when you understand that it was one man who was The Dale News, it makes sense as to why the club appeared this way. Without Isaiah putting this responsibility on himself, The Dale News would have lost all the traction that it gained before the pandemic. Even during the pandemic, where everyone had much bigger worries on their mind, Isaiah still saw The Dale News as a positive outlet during those dark times. “The pandemic represented a time when mostly everyone felt isolated and I knew that social connections were needed. Publishing my own work on The Dale News website helped me express myself and I wanted other students to have a chance to do the same, while also keeping everyone interested and informed on all things FSC,” he said. Looking back on it, the contributions during this time were crucial in the path of The Dale News, as it kept the club afloat when extracurricular activities were restricted. These endeavors played a big part in Isaiah winning the Unsung Hero Award at the 2021 Farmingdale State College Campus Life Awards.
As threats of the pandemic subsided, and campus activities began returning to “normal”, Isaiah’s efforts proved to be beneficial as more and more interested students wanted to contribute their work and ideas to a school newspaper, thus allowing a community to be formed with The Dale News during the Spring 2022 semester. With a team willing to help, and Isaiah taking charge, the club had one goal in mind for the semester; printing a paper for the semester.
Anyone that was a part of The Dale News during this time was able to see the potential and vision of the club, but knew that completing and printing a paper in a short time would be an overwhelming and daunting task. Since The Dale News was not yet recognized as an official club on campus, the meetings began without a legitimate meeting room until Isaiah would work his charm to find an available room to discuss plans for the paper. These meetings were very impromptu and were used more to build chemistry within the group, since all of these members were united under the common interest of contributing to the school paper. It was the efforts from Isaiah, along with key members including myself, Alexa Colban, Chris Kosel, Alex Levitt, and Andrew Mindes during the notorious “campus rounds” where this group stayed on campus hours after meetings to work on the paper.
While the hard work by this core produced countless memories, the paper was ultimately not completed in time, and was not printed until the following Fall 2022 semester. Although this was disappointing for the team, it proved to be worth it when The Dale News finally became an official club in October 2022, before having a full team to hand out the printed copies of the paper a month later. During this time, what was once a single club run by Isaiah grew into a team of individuals eager to support the club’s success. Even with the contributions of this formed team, the relationships formed by Isaiah with Dr. Kevin Jordan, Dr. Noel Holton Brathwaite, and Kevin Murphy were critical in the progress made by The Dale News. These individuals all shared the same vision as Isaiah, and supported our club long before we became official, understanding the importance of a student-run newspaper.
With all the success that The Dale News was having to conclude the Fall 2022 semester, it was easy to assume that Isaiah was thriving in life. No matter what was going outside of school, Isaiah always showed up to campus with a joyful smile as if everything was perfect. This was not the case. While The Dale News may have been prospering, Isaiah was faced with some internal struggles in his college life. Unsure of how he fit in with his major, Science Technology & Society, Isaiah spent much of the winter break contemplating switching majors. A huge decision to make being so close to graduation, but every decision has many outcomes, and Isaiah decided to choose his long-term success over his immediate satisfaction resulting in the decision to switch majors at the start of the Spring 2023 semester.
With so much uncertainty surrounding this decision, the transition into a new major did not go through smoothly at all. Unfortunately for Isaiah, by the time he was able to switch to Liberal Arts, it was too late into the semester to enroll in classes. This was shocking news to everyone close to Isaiah, especially knowing that he would no longer be an active member of The Dale News, a club that truly took on the persona of Isaiah himself. As we all came to terms with this news, Isaiah officially stepped down as Chief Correspondent, and passed this title to current member Esther Sherry.
While Isaiah’s departure put a dent in the plans for the club this semester, it proved to everyone that The Dale News can succeed long after Isaiah and the core members graduate. It verified that the club is in good hands for future semesters to come. What once was multiple positions on the shoulders of Isaiah is now a team of students working together with varying roles to complete tasks within the club. Even though Isaiah’s physical presence isn’t there with us during meetings and campus rounds, the valuable lessons he taught us all along with his unique energy are still felt throughout the team, as we continue to work towards the goals of a student newspaper with The Dale News’ motto; In Passion We Trust.
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