Adama Diakhate, a Wright State University international studies graduate, is helping Daytonians — many of whom are immigrants — find local housing and become part of the community.
He understands their situation somewhat. He, too, is an immigrant.
Diakhate, who earned bachelor’s degrees in international studies and French from Wright State in 2018, was recently promoted to community engagement specialist in the City of Dayton’s Department of Planning, Neighborhood and Development.
“I’ll be working with neighborhoods and businesses,” he said. “My hope is to get more citizen engagement, to revitalize and to work with neighborhoods to find better ways to create more housing opportunities and to help with any needs. In city government, that’s what we’re here for, to serve the community.”
The journey to his new position started when as a teenager he came to the Cincinnati area from Senegal in West Africa. His parents immigrated earlier to pave the way for him, with the goal of better education and job opportunities for the family.
After graduating from high school, Diakhate was accepted to universities in Cincinnati and Kentucky, but a little farther north was a place that came recommended.
“I heard good things about Wright State and got good feedback from friends about how great the university is,” Diakhate said.
He initially enrolled as a biological science major, but within the year, he developed an interest in international relations, focusing on peace and diplomacy, and switched majors.
After graduating from Wright State, he landed a job as a lab technician in Dayton but soon realized that was not for him.
“With my degree, I wanted to do something other than sitting in a lab,” he said. “I wanted to help the underserved, help those in the community who lack resources. That’s been an issue within the immigrant community — that was my number one motivation to switch jobs.”
Even though he had finished his degree from Wright State, Wright State was not finished with him. Diakhate continued to get emails from the university, one of which caught his eye. It was about AmeriCorps, a federal agency for national service through volunteerism.
Diakhate became involved with the Hall Hunger Initiative, a nonprofit organization created in 2015 by Tony Hall, a former member of the U.S. Congress and United Nations ambassador, Tony Hall through AmeriCorps to help those in need to secure housing and food.
After his journey with AmeriCorps, Diakhate worked as a case manager at Homefull, a social service organization in Moraine, and a year later, was promoted to coordinate Homefull’s Rapid Rehousing program.
“That helps people get housing opportunities and connects them to resources, including jobs,” he said.
A couple of years later, Diakhate came upon an opportunity to apply as a legislative aide to Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph. He did and was brought on board in July 2022.
“It really opened up so many doors,” Diakhate said. “It made me understand local politics and how things work in general — all to help the underserved and all of our residents.”
A year later, Diakhate was promoted to his current role.
“Wright State is the reason why I’m at the point I’m in,” he said. “If I didn’t get that email about AmeriCorps, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.”
Diakhate is looking beyond today.
“My long-term goal is becoming a lawyer to help immigrants,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to transition to a different country, through a lack of understanding the language or how the system functions. I’ve seen a lot of families suffer through a lack of proper paperwork. My drive is to help those families.”
All this while, Dayton has been where he wants to be.
“I had opportunities to be in different states, but I’ve stayed here,” he said.
He has a message for those at Wright State: put the university’s array of organizations to good use, which leads to opportunities.
“If you’re a Wright State student,” Diakhate said, “you’re in a great place.”