Ian Malesiewski is a junior at the University of Miami and majors in Neuroscience with minors in Public Health, Chemisty, and Philosophy. Mr. Malesiewski embodies the qualities of a Newman Civic Fellow. He has transcended his own personal life-altering experiences to help his local community by advocating for individuals with disabilities. Most notably, he serves as the president and founder of the DefIANT Scholars Program, which works to assist students with disabilities attend college. By being a model student and an engaged civic leader, he effectively inspires others to be a catalyst for positive change and strive for equality in the disability community.
In 2016, I suffered a traumatic neck/spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed from the chest down. This accident has robbed me of my ability to walk, write, and live a typical life as a college student. Although life-changing, this injury is the reason I am so passionate about advocating for the disability community. Specifically, I recently established the DefIANt Scholars Program, a new scholarship designed to help assist students with disabilities attend college. The DefIANt Scholars Program’s primary goal is to help financially aid the disabled community in an attempt to break down barriers, stereotypes, and misconceptions inside of the classroom. As the president of this program and a college student with a physical disability, I used my personal experiences to raise an astounding $30,000 of initial funding to support the disability community. In addition to founding this scholarship fund, I’ve also interned with multiple elected officials, nonprofits, and other disability organizations to help create more equitable educational and employment opportunities for the disability community. On-campus, I also serve as the accessibility liaison for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) council in the undergraduate Student Government, where I advocate for people with disabilities just like myself.