WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- Part of Cristina Kalesse's job as an assistant principal at Alexis I duPont Middle School in Wilmington is to start a conversation.
It could be about the children's families, sports, or even their health.
"When I am here at this middle school, I do deal with those issues and I do have to have conversations with students about that," said Kalesse.
She knows better than most how powerful speaking up can be.
Kalesse's husband Rob passed away in 2020 from stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.
"I was always kind of in his shadow, to be honest. He was funny, he was humorous, he was a good storyteller," she says.
"He couldn't fight anymore and I felt it was something I needed to do, that I needed to keep fighting," she continued.
To continue their fight, she joined Lung Force, a branch of the American Lung Association. There, she is an advocate.
"I want to give them a voice."
Kalesse's advocacy work goes beyond the walls of her middle school, in fact, it's nationwide.
Last week, she was in Washington D.C. fighting for more funding for lung cancer research. It's work that she says keeps her husband's memory alive.
"My decision is that I'm going to change the narrative. It's not going to be a sad story, it needs to be a story of hope," she says.
Her hope is that if she keeps using her voice, her whole community from lung cancer patients to her students will be empowered to speak up as well.