Lenny Zaleski moved from Chicago to attend the University of Dayton, and the 20-year-old has come to love the city and its people.
He also is coming to know the area even better by volunteering and interning at a variety of local organizations that have a goal of helping others.
“I really do enjoy giving back to a place that is giving me such a rich college experience,” he said.
As a volunteer intern at the Dayton Human Relations Council during this past school year, he worked on tasks like social media management and accessible content while also helping to promote events and increase community engagement. He will return to the organization later this year.
Last fall he also volunteered with the YWCA Dayton’s social media campaign to increase the number of women voters in Montgomery County, and this fall the rising college junior will be part of the Dayton Metro Library’s social media team.
Zaleski, who is part of the university’s Dayton Civic Scholars program of students committed to serving the community, said that while he tries to choose volunteer work that aligns with his career goals, he ultimately wants to help improve the city.
“The biggest motivating factor for me: Is it helping to close a gap or inequity that exists?” he said.
Zaleski’s eyes light up when he talks about improving Dayton, said Melissa Lex, a fellow University of Dayton student who nominated her friend as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.
He has had a hand in a wide range of topics, from environmental justice to human rights, she said.
“He’s very involved both on and off campus,” said Lex, a rising sophomore from Buffalo, New York.
What’s more, Lex said that Zaleski is one of the best people to turn to when seeking advice, helping to guide others to the right path.
“If he sees that you’re struggling, he will reach out and lend a hand if you want it,” Lex said.
Zaleski is a communication and political science major who spoke from England, where he was interning for six weeks at the University of East London. His career goals include working in communications in a field that can make an impact, like higher education or government, doing work that will engage the public.
College students often are labeled as a transient population, he said, but they can make a visible impact on the community. Their involvement is mutually beneficial: Students learn more about the city where they are living and gain experience for their careers when they volunteer, and the community reaps the rewards.
“Students are actively benefitting the community in so many ways,” he said.
He challenges other University of Dayton students to ask more questions and get involved in the community, and he has another challenge for local residents.
“Lend that hand when we do ask questions, because it’s coming from a really good place for the civically minded students, and I think there’s a lot of us,” he said.