During Malak Silmi’s childhood in Dearborn, Mich., the TV was almost never off.
“I watched my cartoons, but I also watched news coverage from Al Jazeera, Al Alam and CNN with my parents,” Malak said.
Yet Malak, 20, said she did not realize she wanted to become a journalist until her junior year of high school.
She noticed that national and local news rarely featured the stories of Arab-Americans and Muslims in her area. So Malak, who identifies as Palestinian-American and Muslim, took action.
“I refocused my energy and decided to write and strengthen my abilities to better cover a community I belonged to, but also to try to reach out to other communities,” she said.
While taking classes at Henry Ford College during high school, Malak freelanced for its student-run newspaper, The Mirror News.
She then enrolled at Wayne State University as a journalism major. Malak, now a rising junior, is a contributing writer for its student-run newspaper, The South End. She is also part of the Muslim Students’ Association and the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity.
Malak’s passion for community-focused news extends beyond campus. She served as an editorial intern for The Detroit MetroTimes, covering Muslim communities in Dearborn. At The Metro-Times, she covered a controversy between a power plant that requested permission from the Michigan Department of Environment to increase its toxic waste emissions and the predominantly impoverished Yemeni community in Dearborn that would mostly be affected by the pollution.
After a public hearing in which community members expressed their concerns to officials, the department gave permission to the facility to increase air pollution. Despite this, Malak said the story had a strong impact on her.
“As a reporter, I wanted to do whatever was in my power to help this community,” Malak said.
This summer, she will intern at NPR’s Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor. Malak’s dream is to become an international correspondent.
For the next 20 years, because of the calendar, Muslim students across high school and college campuses are going to have to balance fasting for Ramadan and the rigor of the academic year. Fortunately, their schools know how to accommodate them.