Liz Murray

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The child of drug-addicted parents who routinely ate from dumpsters and sought refuge at all-night subway stations to survive, Liz Murray was homeless at age 15—and fending for her life. Determined not to be defined by her circumstances, she recognized education as the key to a fresh beginning and a whole new way of living. She earned her high school diploma in just two years and won a scholarship to Harvard University that would turn her bleak circumstances into a future filled with limitless possibility. Graduating in 2009, she has since been awarded The White House Project Role Model Award, a Christopher Award, as well as the Chutzpah Award, which was given to Murray by Oprah Winfrey.

Lifetime Television produced a film about Murray’s life, Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story. Today, she travels the world to deliver motivational speeches and workshops to inspire others. Murray is the founder and director of Manifest Trainings, a New York–based company that empowers adults to create the results they want in their own lives.

As a child, Murray crammed cafeteria food in her backpack on Fridays so she could stave off starvation during the weekend. Now 29, she works with a non-profit organization called Blessings in a Backpack (www.blessingsinabackpack.org) that supplies today’s children with food for the weekend when school cafeterias are closed. Murray says, “If I’d had access to a program like Blessings in a Backpack when I was an undernourished child in New York City, I may not have gone to bed hungry all those nights. Thankfully, with this organization’s continued commitment, thousands of children across America won’t have to.”