“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” –Louisa May Alcott
In honor of March being Women’s History Month and March 8th being International Women’s Day, Alley’s House is celebrating women by sharing stories of those who overcame hardship to achieve their dreams. Our featured women overcame similar situations as our teen moms. A testament to hard work and perseverance, these women didn’t see their circumstances as an obstacle, but as a challenge; one they could overcome with hard work and dedication. At Alley’s House we encourage the same characteristics in our teen moms, so they can strive for their personal best. Each day brings new opportunities and possibilities, we may not always reach our highest aspirations, but that does not mean we should not try.
We hope these posts bring you inspiration and comfort in knowing we can achieve our dreams with purpose and perseverance.
Elizabeth “Liz” Murray grew up in Bronx, New York with two affectionate but drug-addicted parents. While she and her sister were starving, both parents spent all their welfare on heroin and cocaine. “We ate ice cubes because it felt like eating,” Murray stated. “We split a tube of toothpaste between us for dinner.” Murray’s mother was often too sick or weary to take care of her own daughters. Instead, it was usually up to Liz Murray and/or her sister Lisa Murray to take on the motherly roles whenever their mother was vomiting, or having violent withdrawal symptoms from the drug use. When Murray attended school as a young girl, she was constantly teased by her classmates about her dirty clothes and disheveled and lice-infested hair. She shortly began to skip classes, and later skipped so many classes that she was sent to a girls’ home. When she turned fifteen, Murray became homeless after her mother passed away from AIDS and her father ceased to pay the rent for the apartment. A few years later, Murray’s father also had his life taken away by AIDS.
After her mother died, Murray came to a realization. “Like my mother, I was always saying, ‘I’ll fix my life one day.’ It became clear when I saw her die without fulfilling her dreams that my time was now or maybe never,” she said. When Murray became seventeen, she decided to resume her education and was determined to finish high school in just two years with straight As. She took classes at night and did a year of work each term. A teacher who saw Murray’s gumption decided to mentor her, and later he took his top ten students, including her, on a tour to Harvard University. Murray fell in love with Harvard’s architecture and was set on attending Harvard after she graduated. With the help from a NY Times scholarship, she was able to fulfill her dream. Liz Murray graduated from Harvard in the summer of 2010.
Liz Murray is a wonderful role model not just for the young ladies at Alley’s House, but for all teenagers and young adults. Her story shows that although people cannot control where they come from or where they grow up, they have complete control of their future based on their present actions. Today, Murray is a motivational speaker for teenagers. Most of her topics are about resisting the urge to participate in gangs or drug use and not allowing past hardships to get in the way of future endeavors. She has spoken at events alongside Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama. Additionally, Liz Murray’s autobiography Breaking Night has become a New York Times Bestseller and received acclaim from many critics.