“New Orleans is a community with so many different needs, and I feel like being involved in any way possible is a really important aspect of being a true New Orleanian,” says Mary Esther Pilant, a sophomore at Isidore Newman High School.

Pilant is involved with community service at Newman as a member of the Community Service Leadership Board, and she’s also involved with Trinity Church and their trips to the New Orleans Mission.

In the sixth grade, Pilant became involved in Trinity’s Mobile Loaves and Fishes, through which she helped serve the homeless.

Last year along with her classmates she joined forces with The First 72+, a New Orleans-based organization formed to assist with re-entry after incarceration. Founder Calvin Ducan spoke to the students how hard life is for prisoners during and after prison.

“The First 72+ really opened my eyes and made me realize that there are so many people in need in our city, and those who need our help the most are often overlooked by the community,” says Pilant.

Even though Pilant never met her grandmother Esther Forman, the stories that her mother told her inspired Pilant to become an activist.

“Esther was known for doing crazy things, such inviting homeless people home for dinner or letting them stay as a guest in her house; she also started a charity concert to raise money for drug addicts. She was a kind person all around, and I’ve heard nothing but glowing remarks about her,” says Pilant.

Pilant hopes to attend the University of  Virginia to help women achieve true equality on a global scale. Pilant says, “I want girls and women universally to feel like they have a voice, and to speak out about the issues they see in the world, which is something everyone should have the chance to do. I want women to feel empowered for being who they are, and never want them to feel like their intellectual or even physical abilities are discounted or ignored.”