Smiles abound in Fleis visits to schools

"Project Runway" finalist Melissa Fleis, a St. Ignatius alumni, visited her former school Friday. The students asked great questions of her about her experience on the show. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

Smiles, smiles and more smiles. The faces of the students who had the chance to talk with Melissa Fleis were ┬áreflected on Melissa’s face Friday in Rogers City. The “Project Reality” finalist visited St. Ignatius Catholic School, which she attended, Rogers City Elementary and Rogers City High School bringing a positive message with her. She clearly enjoyed appearing at the three schools, attentively asking each students’ name as she signed an autographed card for each of them.

Melissa Fleis made great connections with the students she met with on Friday.

The 1998 RCHS grad said it is all about following your dreams and hard work. She told a story of a little girl, her, who wrote a story about a girl who followed her dreams. That little girl dreamed of visiting Italy and Florida and one day being a clothing designer. Melissa put that story down in a book during her St. Ignatius years and her dream has come true. Doors of opportunity have opened since her appearance on the popular Lifetime television network show. But more hard work lies ahead as she jumps into the next phase of her life, she told the students.

She began her day during first hour at the high school, guest of Missy Wozniak’s class. About 40 students, who had signed up for Fleis’ session watched a video of introduction then filled the hour with questions about the show. The high school video class, under the direction of Sunrise Cable, then interviewed her in the high school library.

Students pose with Melissa Fleis during her visit to her alma mater Friday. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

From there she went to St. Ignatius, where she graduated in 1994, to meet with the entire student body. Teacher Lori Leow, who had Fleis as a student in 1992, proudly introduced her former student. Sitting in a chair surrounded by the students sitting on the floor, Fleis was thrilled that all of the students knew so many details about the show. That some were able to stay up past their bedtime to watch the show, which ended at 10:30 p.m. on Thursdays, made her smile.

After a short break for lunch, it was back at it. Rogers City Elementary principal and superintendent of schools Katie Makowski escorted Fleis to a room filled with enthusiastic fifth-graders. They, too got autographed photos of her, some asking for signatures on their arm.

Introduced and escorted by Advance publisher Richard Lamb, Fleis could not have been more gracious in her three school visits. She patiently and thoughtfully answered questions about how she got into fashion designing, her dreams of the future and specifics on various episodes of the reality show.

Kyley Lafleche shows Melissa photos of a dress she created based on one Melissa made for "Project Runway."

She is a special guest of the Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual dinner Saturday, Nov. 3. A group of 15 area business and individuals sponsored her trip to town from her home in San Francisco for the event.