Homeless to Harvard

By Brenda on November 4th, 2011


Many adults who decide to go back to school are faced with many challenges and obstacles. A person who overcame insurmountable to obtain the dream of a college education was Elizabeth “Liz” Murray. Murray has made a name for herself on the public speaking circuit after graduating from Harvard after spending parts of her child and adulthood being homeless. A movie titled Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story was released to television in 2003 documenting her amazing rise from the ashes.

Liz was born in the Bronx, New York on September 23, 1980 to drug addicted parents who both eventually died from AIDS. Liz and her sister were not able to attend much of elementary because they had to fend for themselves much of the time. Her parents separated and Liz chose to live with her father. At the age of fifteen she and her father moved into a homeless shelter. Shortly afterwards her mother passed away from AIDS.

Her life began to take a turn for the better when she began to attend Humanities Preparatory Academy in Manhattan. It was while attending that school when her class took a class field trip to Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was there that Liz realized she wanted to improve her life by attending the prestigious university.

After the field trip she dedicated herself to her studies despite being homeless. She would have to study on the train as well as at friends’ houses. She was able to graduate from high school in just two years after starting much later than most students.

Liz was awarded a New York Times scholarship for needy students. She matriculated to Harvard in the fall of 2000. In 2001 she left the school to care for her father who was dying from complications due to the AIDS virus. At that point she also started doing motivational speaking engagements around the country telling her story.

In late 2006 her father passed away and Liz returned to Harvard. She graduated three years later in 2009. She has since written a book called Breaking Night and founded a company called Manifest Living that helps people from all walks of life. Murray says that she would like to achieve a doctoral in clinical psychology from Harvard to counsel people. Liz’s older sister Lisa eventually graduated from Purchase College in New York and is a teacher.

Liz spends time developing her adult empowerment workshops for clients and continues to speak around the country at different events telling her inspirational life story.




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