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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Hollywood Connections

Flyers in Hollywood is an annual event that brings alumni working in the entertainment industry together with current students preparing for their dreams to do the same. Although the trip couldn’t take place this year because of the pandemic, that didn’t stop alumni and students from making connections.

In fact, the event got bigger, morphing into an Alumni Week where all communication students could attend. Usually, five to eight senior media production students make the trip west, but this year they were joined by other classes throughout media production, public relations, communication management and journalism.

Joe Valenzano III, chair of the communication department, was humbled by the amount of alumni participation at a time when everyone in the world was feeling so disconnected. “It’s a testament to our University and the people we graduate,” said Valenzano. “We take care of each other — our alumni, faculty and students … when you come to UD, you’re a Flyer for life.”

Tony Sacco ’92 understands that better than most. His parents met while they were attending UD. He counts his four years at UD as some of the best in his life. And his son’s name? Dayton. UD just might be in his blood.

“I love UD,” said Sacco. “Ever since Flyers in Hollywood started, I’ve always been out of the country when they traveled here. So, this year I opened up my schedule, and I planned to host students at my house. I really wanted the students to get an understanding of what Hollywood is and what it’s like to work here. I know how hard this business is, and I won’t sugarcoat it. But it’s rewarding, too.” Sacco also said it was important for him to develop some of his professional skills before heading to Los Angeles.

His message certainly hit home for students who attended his Zoom session (one of seven sessions hosted by alumni for current students). Nick Piazza ’21 and Kaitlyn Baxendale ’21 both plan to work locally, Nick in Ohio and Kaitlyn in Chicago, before making their way to Hollywood.

“I appreciated the realistic advice he gave us,” said Piazza. “I know it won’t be easy, but it helps me understand what’s expected of me in the future and how important it is to stay positive and determined.”

Cierra Campbell ’21 is from Dayton and said that talking to Sacco made her goal of working in Los Angeles seem more attainable because Sacco shared how he made the move from the Cleveland market to Hollywood. 

Sacco is all for having more UD students working on sets in Hollywood. “This business is so personal,” said Sacco. “Half the battle is just being nice. I would rather hire someone who is a go-getter and is a good person.” And those are traits Flyers are flush with.

“The University of Dayton is a really special place,” said Baxendale when asked about her chance to talk with UD alumni working in media and film. “Going into the entertainment industry, networking is so important. They know that. And for them to help us out, it just makes me so happy. I look forward to doing the same thing.”

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