Malia Schlesser

Photo from Malia Schlesser

Photo from Malia Schlesser

Idealists believe that teachers inspire future generations, and while this normally is directed at academics, La Pietra’s Malia Schlesser also inspires her students to be caring people.

Schlesser has taught at La Pietra for 10 years and is adviser for the school’s Red Cross Club.

In her role as adviser, Schlesser’s mission is twofold: Teach her students the importance of helping those less fortunate, and send clothing to children at St. Michael in Alaska. The temperature in St. Michael, which is 450 miles north of Anchorage, ranges from 70 degrees below zero to 50 degrees F, which means survival is an issue for families in the area. At Red Cross Club meetings, Schlesser asks her students to bring in clothes.

“Some of the clothes we sent were clothes that students maybe have worn once when they went to the Mainland on vacation, and then they grow out of them,” explains the Luxembourg native.

The venture started nearly two years ago, when a conversation between herself and neighbor Sandy Gottesman sparked the idea. Gottesman’s niece teaches in the St. Michael area, and relayed the need for warm clothes for kids at her school.

“We were talking about how fortunate we are in Hawaii,” says Schlesser. Now, La Pietra students and faculty donate clothing, which Schlesser then gives to Gottesman to ship, and her most recent shipment weighed nearly 100 pounds.

“Some of the clothing is T-shirts,” explains Schlesser. “That works because they can wear it under their clothes.”

In addition to her Red Cross Club duties, Schlesser also teaches French at La Pietra. “I was raised bilingual,” she says. “My first language is Luxembourgish. Most people don’t even know that’s a language.”

Schlesser has plans to continue her clothing drive, and asks everyone she comes into contact with to donate.

“I think it’s great what we’re doing,” she adds. “Those kids have nothing. It’s hard for us to imagine.”