YSU student’s generosity benefits McGuffey students


By Sean Barron

news@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Soon after the recent cold snap made its presence felt in the Mahoning Valley, Kayla Rieser grew concerned when she realized some elementary-school youngsters were coming to their classes inadequately dressed for the conditions.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take her long to convert her worries to action.

“They came to school without socks in the cold weather, or without a long-sleeved shirt,” the Howland woman said, referring to some William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School first-graders with whom she works.

Rieser, a senior in a student-teaching program at Youngstown State University’s Beeghly College of Education, also works at Raptis Family Restaurant on state Route 46 near Warren.

She recently voiced her concerns to her employers, which led to a clothing drive on behalf of the youngsters who lacked adequate winter clothing.

Consequently, plenty of donated coats, mittens, hats, scarves, pairs of socks and sweatshirts were distributed Tuesday morning at the school, 310 S. Schenley Ave., on the West Side, to those in Nancy Miller’s first-grade class who needed the items.

One of the happy recipients was 7-year-old Dominick Smith, who proudly wrapped around his neck a scarf on which images of small footballs were emblazoned.

“I like the Steelers,” said Dominick, who added Christmas Eve is a fun day because it allows his excitement for Christmas Day to grow.

Beginning early next month, Rieser will be a student teacher in Miller’s class, where she will work until she graduates from YSU in May.

The idea for the clothing drive was a result of her caring heart and love for the students, Miller explained.

“She is very compassionate, very empathetic. Her initiative is going to take her a long way as a classroom teacher,” Miller said, adding Rieser also is highly attuned to the students’ classroom needs.

“I didn’t ask her to do this. This was all Kayla.”

Also happy to pitch in for the effort were George Raptis and his sister, Joann Raptis, whose parents, Foti and Mary Ann Raptis, run the 29-year-old family-owned restaurant.

Each year, the eatery assists an area charity or similar effort during the holidays.

Last year’s recipient was Sojourner House’s Domestic Violence Shelter in Youngstown, Joann said.

Also instrumental in making the distribution successful were the many customers who generously donated clothing, she continued.

“Anything we can do to help, we’re glad we made a difference,” Joann added.

A highlight for George will be the opportunity for patrons who took part in the charitable effort to see on Facebook photographs of the students’ positive expressions regarding having received the clothing, he said.

“Seeing [the youngsters’] faces brought joy to us,” George added.

“We want to show our customers the pictures we took, which prompts others to see the differences they made.”

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