Each year, Blair students endeavor to develop critical 21st-century leadership skills through their participation in Blair LEADS, the School’s cross-curricular leadership initiative. This fall, a special leadership consultant is accompanying them on their journey to becoming service-minded leaders, and she is imbuing that journey with a spirit of positivity and gratefulness.
Amy Liss has had cerebral palsy since birth, but she does not let her disability define her, nor does she let it stop her from living a life of service. Embracing her personal motto—“live each day with an attitude of gratitude”—she works as the relationship coordinator at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley in the suburbs of Chicago, mentors students at her former elementary school, and serves as an inspirational speaker for college athletic teams and the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA).
It was through JFSLA that Blair’s Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79 connected with Ms. Liss—they have been JFSLA staff members for 13 and eight years, respectively. Mrs. Conforti-Browse invited Ms. Liss to speak to students on Blair’s 2015 Day of Service, and she annually shares Ms. Liss’s inspiring life story with her LEADS classes.
“I engaged Amy to work with LEADS students this year because of the tremendous work she’s done with kids from elementary school through college age,” Mrs. Conforti-Browse said. “Whether she is chatting with Robin Roberts or the Seton Hall basketball team or the Chicago Cubs or the youngest of JFSLA girls or Blair kids, she offers the best lessons in living a life of gratitude and the importance of networking to ‘build your team.’ Her key message to LEADS is that continually expanding the team is what leads to a full life. She is an amazing life coach.”
JFSLA owner and founder Julie Foudy couldn’t agree more. “Amy is such a gift in our lives and our JFSLA family,” said the Olympic gold and silver medalist, World Cup winner and former USA women’s soccer national team captain. “She has this wonderful ability to connect with people and make you smile, think, reflect and, in the end, know your life is richer for having met her. She also lives as she preaches: with an attitude of gratitude. I wish everyone could have an Amy Liss in their lives.”
This year, Blair’s sophomores have the privilege of working with Ms. Liss as she helps 10th-grade LEADS classes with their community service projects and mentors individual students who are developing and executing a personal challenge. To date, she has virtually attended several LEADS sessions and begun one-on-one interviews with the students to whom she is assigned—and this, she says, is the best part of her role so far.
“I love meeting new people and building relationships!” she said enthusiastically. “Working with Blair students has been a wonderful opportunity for me to meet kids from all over the world, and I enjoy finding out about their lives and their interests. Their questions have been really thought-provoking—these students are wise beyond their years, and Blair should be very proud of that.”
Brian Liu ’23 enjoyed his first interview experience with Ms. Liss and felt inspired and motivated by her life story. “Some days, no matter your upbringing or your circumstances, it's hard to find gratitude, but the video about Amy’s life really puts your struggles into perspective as you realize how fortunate you really are,” he reflected. “The part about her twin sister really connected with me on a personal scale, as I have a little brother of my own.”
Whether she is with a group of students or an individual, Ms. Liss emphasizes two important messages: there is great power in positivity and anyone can be a leader. “Positivity is especially important during the pandemic—everyone can use some positivity and cheering up right now,” she observed. And she speaks from personal experience about leadership, sharing how she never thought of herself as a leader until she got involved in JFSLA. “JFSLA teaches kids that there are lots of ways to be a leader, and I want to help students realize that. It’s not just about being the loud one! You can observe quietly and then speak up, and I’ve learned to speak up for myself.”
Of course, Ms. Liss also shares her determination to live with an attitude of gratitude, a message she feels is especially important for kids to hear, since they are at such an impressionable age. All in all, she says that in her work with Blair LEADS, she is taking everything she has learned and putting it into action and process.
“I love serving others, and Blair kids are serving others, too. I want to encourage them to make a positive difference,” she said. “I hope I can be helpful to them this year and that we can learn and grow together. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”