Eden Zaleski, a double major in Elementary and Special Education at Salve Regina University, uses her passion for education and service to be a leader and change-maker. Her goal is to create more equitable school environments and access to resources for underprivileged youth. After taking the course Race and Inequity in the American Education System, her eyes were opened to the struggles faced by minority and disadvantaged youth in school and society overall. The research she is conducting for Salve’s Education Department tracks how this class impacts pre-service teachers’ racial identity development so they can reach and teach all students, no matter their backgrounds. In August 2019, Eden became the first Salve student to visit the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. This August, she will lead ten students as they provide summer camp activities and help build the Children’s Village for Lakota youth. Additionally, she participated in the Florida Service Trip, was a student facilitator for Service Plunge 2.0, and organize the East Bay Special Olympics as President of Salve’s Special Olympics Club.
She believes that education, awareness, and service allow changes to come to fruition, improving the lives of those being served and those completing the service.
My first experience with leading a community service project around the issue of equal access to education and resources for children was organizing a book drive in high school as an officer of my school’s chapter of National Honor Society. We collected 5,000 books, which were used to start two children’s libraries in Lesotho. Once I came to Salve, I became involved in the Office of Community Engagement and Service by going on multiple trips to Gifts to Give, a facility that provides donated clothing, toys, and books to children living in poverty in Massachusetts and Newport County. I also participated in two Service Plunge 2.0 events, went on the Florida Service Trip to work at Give Kids the World. My most recent endeavor is leading the brand new South Dakota Service Trip to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to work with Lakota youth through the Simply Smiles Organization. Throughout my work, I have seen how a sense of community and support are critical factors for all children, no matter what struggles they face. I’m proud to work closely with organizations that serve children and their families to provide what they need to achieve their personal goals and dreams.