The Triumph of Hard Work and Dedication

When Ishmial Samad was about to go off to college, the staff at New Community’s Harmony House took up a collection to buy him some basic necessities and to pay for a bus ticket. Samad, who had been living at NCC’s transitional facility for homeless families with his mother and two sisters, was bound for Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Back in Newark for the summer, Samad — who was an honor student in high school and has been doing well in college — was entering his junior year, majoring in business and interested in a career in banking or finance. His sister Naeemah, meanwhile, was a 12-year-old honor student at the Oakwood Avenue School in Orange.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” said Samad, who was also a talented athlete. His older brother dropped out of high school. His older sister had a child when she was young and did not pursue her education, although the family had high hopes for his sister, Naeemah.

The family ended up living at Harmony House after being evicted from their apartment because they were unable to pay the rent.

“We’re very, very proud of him,” said Harmony House Director Diane Young-Garrett, who noted that Samad was among a handful of young people that enrolled in college while living at the facility. Back when Samad was enrolling in college, Harmony House staff members made calls to college administrators to explain his financial situation and they waived hundreds of dollars in admission and registration fees.

Samad set out to look for a good summer job so that he could save money to return to college.

He was especially proud to attend Johnson C. Smith, one of the nation’s most prominent historically African-American colleges. Reflecting on the odds faced by his friends, Samad noted that of his eight closest friends, “six of us made it out” and enrolled in college. “A lot of my friends are going to school but a lot dropped out of school or are on street corners selling drugs,” he said at the time.

As for what he would tell his peers, Samad had this advice: “Finish high school, go to college and get a job. Don’t stay where you are because you might not make it out if it’s a bad area.”