2020’s Newman Civic Fellow will focus on education equality
Eden Zaleski ’21, a double major in elementary and special education, has been named a 2020 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a nonprofit organization supporting civic engagement on college campuses throughout the country with a coalition of over 1,000 universities.
“Salve has prepared me so well for this opportunity, and I feel really fortunate that I have the privilege of having this position,” said Zaleski, who is originally from New Jersey. “I hope that I can fill the role, and I hope that I’m able to make some kind of meaningful impact for the people that I’ll be working with.”
Newman fellowships recognize students who engage in collaborative action with others in order to create long-term social change, take action in addressing issues of inequality and political polarization, and demonstrate the motivation and potential for effective long-term civic engagement. The 2020 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows is the largest one to date, with 290 students each participating at their prospective university.
“Students who are selected to be Newman Civic Fellows are … engaged citizens in the communities where they live and the greater world,” said Zaleski. “The beauty of it is that whatever it is that you’re already actively a part of, you can make that into [your focus] … with the fellowship.”
The fellowship is named for the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who was a tireless advocate for civic engagement in higher education. In the spirit of Dr. Newman’s leadership, Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors may nominate one student from their institution for the fellowship.
As a fellowship recipient, Zaleski will participate in a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including attending the national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The fellowship also provides access to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.
Zaleski’s own civic engagement has focused on education equality and providing services for students and their families who are underprivileged or struggling. She is the president of Salve Regina’s Special Olympics Club, which assists in the facilitation of the East Bay Area Games. Normally held in late April, the event involves about 250 Special Olympic athletes who compete in the qualifying rounds for track and field across Rhode Island.
Zaleski has also been conducting research in the education department under Dr. Tracy Pelkowski about white pre-service teachers and their racial identity, as Zaleski described. This is important when it comes to education equality.
“[White] teachers must understand their own background in order to better understand their students who are racially diverse once they get out into the field,” she said.
Another part of Zaleski’s life at Salve Regina is her active participation in the Center for Community Engagement and Service. She’s been on the annual Florida service trip to Give Kids the World Village to work with children who have terminal or lifelong illnesses in providing their families a dream vacation. She is also the facilitator for the South Dakota service trip to work on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
“When we get there, we’ll be doing summer camp for the kids for a week,” Zaleski described. “And we’ll also be helping to build their children’s village — which will be for children who are on foster care on the reservation so they don’t have to be displaced in foster care locations that are … hundreds of miles away from where they live.”
With the Newman Civic Fellowship, Zaleski is currently brainstorming as to what her actual work might look like during her time specifically as the fellow. She has seen the great need in the Newport area schools, and she hopes to further connect struggling families with resources that a wide range of community centers provide.
“Salve students sometimes … don’t really see where the need is because it’s not in this little area, but … Newport is not just mansions,” Zaleski said. “Once you get into the schools and interact with the kids, it becomes easier to see where those needs are.”