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Student, campus leader and author Faith Smith shares how Indiana University Northwest helped shape her success

In honor and recognition of Black History Month, Indiana University Northwest is featuring Faith Smith, a senior studying English at the Gary campus.

Smith grew up in a single-parent household. She was raised by her mother alongside her four siblings. Over the years, Smith has learned a lot from her mother when it comes to focusing on priorities.

“Education always comes first in our family,” Smith said. “My mother would sit at the table with us whenever we had to do homework. She always told us we could be and do whatever we want. I always wanted to be a writer, so my mother would buy me journals and other writing materials. She’s always been dedicated to us and helping everyone in our family achieve their dreams.”

With her mother raising five children by herself, Smith didn’t have much of a father figure to turn to growing up. She credits Antoine Hawkins, an admissions counselor at IU Northwest, for being the man she often goes to for guidance.

“He was able to allow me to see my potential and go after opportunities that elevate me further,” Smith said. “Sometimes, I tended to make excuses or back away from the spotlight, but he always pushed me to work hard and allowed me to be at the finish line of my degree.”

Smith will be graduating from IU Northwest this May. While her love for writing started to surge for Smith in fourth grade, it wasn’t until Smith came to IU Northwest that she was able to get the academic experience she had always envisioned in college.

“Before I came to IU Northwest, I wasn’t great in social environments,” Smith said. “I wasn’t comfortable with being myself or getting involved on campus. Once I was introduced to some of the groups here, it gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone.”

Smith believes most of the organizations at IU Northwest represent a brotherhood or sisterhood experience. Two groups she has played a significant role in are My Sister’s Keeper and the Black Student Union.

In both groups, Smith serves as the vice president. She describes how important these groups have been for her as a woman of color.

“We do plenty of study tables and bring awareness to events or issues for women,” Smith said. “We try to create a lot of opportunities for people to participate in diverse conversations about various cultures. These groups have allowed me to embrace myself and be more confident overall. It’s one thing to be on top of things academically as a student, but I think it’s very powerful to play a part in organizations that contribute or change campus life.”

Something Smith is looking forward to for Black History Month is the panel discussions hosted by these groups. The students will have conversations about the different types of hair that women have and the stereotypes that come with each hairstyle. Smith always cherishes the opportunity to learn from her peers because she believes everybody deserves to have their voice heard.

“We all contribute to the world in some way, shape or form,” Smith said. “It’s important to take inspiration and learn from everybody rather than limiting it to certain groups of people. A lot of things can’t evolve or hit their potential if we aren’t all given a chance to speak our minds.”

Not only does Smith strive to be a voice in these groups, she also advocates through her writing. She recently published “Thoughts of a Sober Heart” on Amazon, which is a poetry collection built into a book that focuses on encouraging women and young girls to love themselves through hardship. She feels more comfortable sharing an emotional perspective of her life through her writing as well.

Moving forward, Smith plans to continue being a voice in Black culture and serving as a mentor for young girls in future generations. She visualizes herself being a voice of reason and guidance for people who need somewhere to turn in tough situations. Her goal is to take what she learns along the way and pass the torch of information to inspire as many people as possible.

IU Northwest will be honoring students, faculty and staff throughout the Black History Month. Check out these features on Facebook, Instagram  and X.

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