Jessica “Jesse” DiMeglio, ’23, loves finding the commonalities between those around her.
The communication major from Ewing, N.J., doesn’t consider her civic engagement and service initiatives as work, since she’s benefiting from the connection just as much as the individuals she’s helping.
“I think there’s this perception that people who embrace this kind of work are here to help or fix something, and I’ve just never identified with that,” she said. “I just want to keep learning about communities I’m working with.”
DiMeglio has brought that philosophy to her work as an intern with one organization and a volunteer with another. Her commitment to lifting up others has garnered attention and, in March, DiMeglio was named as a Newman Civic Fellow for 2022-2023.
The Newman Civic Fellowship is organized through Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education. The organization announced 173 student civic leaders who will make up the 2022-2023 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. DiMeglio joins students from 38 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Mexico.
The fellowship recognizes college students who stand out through their commitments to creating positive change in communities locally and around the world. Fellows are nominated by Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors, who can select one student from their campus each year.
“During this time of COVID and social separation, Jesse has found ways to connect people,” said Regina Gauss Kosiek, director of University Ministry. “Through her internship with Justice Arts Coalition, Jesse recruited La Salle students to write hundreds of letters to individuals incarcerated across the country. Her interest in working with communities is balanced with her compassion for individuals and gives her a unique and personal framework for looking at social and systemic change.”
Regina Gauss Kosiek, director of University Ministry, wrote DiMeglio’s nomination letter and it was signed off on by Interim University President Tim O’Shaughnessy, ’85.
“During this time of COVID and social separation, Jesse has found ways to connect people,” said Gauss Kosiek. “Through her internship with Justice Arts Coalition, Jesse recruited La Salle students to write hundreds of letters to individuals incarcerated across the country. Her interest in working with communities is balanced with her compassion for individuals and gives her a unique and personal framework for looking at social and systemic change.”
DiMeglio has contributed to two nonprofits. She’s worked with the Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) as an intern, a Maryland-based, volunteer-led nonprofit that provides education, advocacy, companionship and compassion for currently and formerly incarcerated artists; and Pheed Philadelphia as a volunteer, a service group on campus working with two community kitchens: Face to Face in Germantown and Sarnelli House in Kensington.
Through the fellowship, students like DiMeglio receive a year of learning and networking opportunities that emphasize personal, professional, and civic growth. Each year, students participate in numerous virtual training and networking opportunities to help provide them with the skills and connections they need to create large-scale positive change.
The mainstay event of the fellowship is the Annual Convening of Fellows, which offers intensive skill-building and networking over the course of two days. The fellowship also provides pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.
DiMeglio said she was shocked to learn she had been named as one of this year’s fellows. She said she’s grateful to represent La Salle and excited to connect with like-minded civic leaders.
“I’m always excited to find people who I can keep learning from,” she said. “My mom always says to surround yourself in life with people who are smarter than you. I like the opportunity to mesh minds and see where that can take us.”
DiMeglio’s passion for social justice work began in high school and has only grown during her time at La Salle. She said the gratification she hears from those she’s serving is positive, but fleeting. The real change making she loves is the long-lasting relationships that blossom through her work.
“This isn’t just something that I’m doing for the time being,” she said. “This is what I will care about and think about and what will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
— Meg Ryan