Meet Lucas Malo, New Director of Community Engagement

By Sarah DuBard ’25
Lucas Malo joined the Rivers community at the beginning of the 2023–24 school year as the director of community engagement. Associate Editor of The Rivers Edge Sarah DuBard ’25 sat down with Malo to talk about his passion for serving the community and his pathway to Rivers. 

Many teachers work hard to keep students involved in their school, but the new director of community engagement, Lucas Malo, has a different philosophy: “My job is to get students to leave Rivers and go out into the community.”

Malo has wasted no time since joining The Rivers School this fall. Through teaching the Grade 10 Foundations course, meeting with all community engagement clubs, and commencing the 2023–24 community engagement internship program, Malo has already acquainted himself with much of the student body and professional community. 

Malo’s career in community engagement dates back to high school, when he found himself gravitating towards service-oriented extracurriculars: volunteering at a local nursing home to facilitate intergenerational conversations. From then on, Malo knew service and outreach would be his passion.

Malo carried his love for community engagement with him as he pursued a psychology major and sociology minor at Saint Michael’s College, where he ran the Best Buddies program, operated numerous blood drives, and volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club, as well as at nursing homes, food pantries, and shelters. In addition to his year-round community engagement, he also spent seven spring breaks volunteering in different places around the world.

He reflected on a pivotal moment when, as a volunteer on a service trip to Haiti as a senior, a local mother glanced at him as he was walking, motioned for him to open his arms, and literally threw her child to him. “She knew nothing about me but my skin tone, yet that one identifier was enough for her to believe her child would have a better life with me,” Malo recalled. “That experience as a 22-year-old set the tone for my wanting to make sure that everyone had access to the resources they needed.”

After completing college, Malo undertook the director of community service position at Brandeis University. During his 14 years at Brandeis, he created the Roses in Concrete program, which paired Brandeis students of color with alumni mentors to engage in various workshops and in turn matched the Brandeis students with local Waltham students of color. In addition to nurturing this signature program, he tripled the number of volunteer programs, leadership roles, and community partnerships, creating a top three nationally ranked program where students completed over 70,000 hours of service every year. 

“Roses in Concrete created an intergenerational program where students could see themselves and their identities reflected in older generations,” he explained.

Most impactful of all, Malo shared that becoming a father helped him reach a vital insight for success in his chosen career: You cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. This realization inspired a career transition, and for the next 14 months, Malo worked as the inaugural director of community engagement at the Life Is Good Playmaker Project, which teaches early childhood professionals to help kids heal from traumatic circumstances. 

As Malo looks to the future of the Rivers community engagement program, he intends to bring his philosophy of accessible engagement to the students here. Malo loves to experience the “aha” moments when students realize how they can turn their passions into sustainable projects. “Young minds are not only more open to feedback, creativity, and thinking outside the box, they are also more willing to be vulnerable and understand their areas for growth,” he said.

Malo has envisioned a staircase process of service resulting in sustainable change: A student might begin occasionally volunteering during their first year at Rivers. Then, they may start to analyze the systemic reasons such service is needed. By the end of their time at Rivers, a student will ideally be diving deeper into how those systems need to be changed and how, as a young person, they can start a cycle of civic engagement that can bring about such change.

“My dream is for community engagement on this campus to be as emphasized as the Conservatory and athletics are. The goal is for students to come to Rivers because they genuinely care about making the world a better place,” he explained. “With time, resources, and passionate students, I know that we can achieve the ideal of sustainable community engagement.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of The Rivers Edge, Rivers’ student-run newspaper. 
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