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Service with a smile

Service with a smile

Tori Miller '23 December 06, 2022

Since his first day on UD’s campus, second-year political science and communication major Leonard (Lenny) Zaleski, a Chicago native, has been working to make Dayton a better place. 

A staunch advocate of service work, Zaleski serves in a hands-on role working on community engagement projects for the City of Dayton’s Human Relations Council. He helps manage the government agency’s online presence, works on building rapport with the community and smiles the entire time while he volunteers his time.

In October Zaleski and HRC executive director, Erica Fields, made an appearance on local television show Good Day Dayton to discuss the Fair Housing Symposium — an initiative implemented by the HRC to prevent discrimination across the Miami Valley.

Photo of Lenny Zaleski in front of Humanities Bldg.
Lenny Zaleski

 “It was a hands-on thing that not many PR students get to say that they’ve done,” Zaleski said. 

The symposium promotes equal treatment and opportunity to all who live, work, play and gather in Dayton. This year’s symposium focused on health disparities in housing and housing discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or age. 

Zaleski said he was honored to be able to be a guest on Good Day Dayton to talk about his work with the symposium and on HRC’s social media messaging outreach to the greater Dayton community.

“UD is one of the only places that has such hands-on experiences for students.”

“UD is one of the only places that has such hands-on experiences for students,” Zaleski said “Such a cool opportunity.” 

Zaleski also serves as a leader in many UD clubs such as the Public Relations Society of America, Phi Beta Chi, Students for University Advancement, Flyer Consulting and Sustainability Club. 

“I promise I sleep,” he joked. 

As a busy student on and off campus, Zaleski said he finds great value in pairing experiential learning with what he is being taught in the classroom. Prior to joining the HRC’s staff, he worked  with AmeriCorps — which sparked his interest in community involvement. 

“I grew in that role,” Zaleski said. “I felt like it kept me honed in as a freshman because I got to learn about so many things on and off campus through this program. If I hadn’t done it, I may have felt a little lost on what to do.”

Learning early on what you like and don’t like as a student is very important, said Zaleski. Working in experiential learning roles provides students with a sense of balance within the craziness of classes and allows for personal discovery to be explored outside of lecture time. 

“For your own development, it’s super important to see stuff applied to some extent in the real world,” Zaleski said. “Getting a peak behind the curtain at how certain companies operate or how you do things. If you don’t know these things, it’s hard to set up a trajectory or course for what you want to do.”

Without nonprofit experience, community engagement and the experiential learning opportunities at UD, Zaleski said he wouldn’t have been inspired to strive toward his next goal in life — a masters degree in public administration. 

“Being able to put your name on things and say ‘I did this’ I think is really valuable for students, and I hope that more people can seek those [opportunities] out,” he said.”

Life's gifts