Liz Leddy

50 StoriesHigh School DropoutsYouth Building Alternatives
September 09, 2017

Liz Leddy’s resume is impressive. She’s a two time national Golden Gloves Champion; owner of her own hair styling business, and a personal trainer. Back in the mid-1990s, this kind of success and stability was something that seemed far beyond Liz’s reach.  After dropping out of high school, Liz found herself homeless. She struggled with substance abuse and fell into an abusive relationship.  Throughout all of this, she would ask herself, “How am I going to move forward with my life?” A friend who attended LearningWorks’ Youth Building Alternatives program (YBA) encouraged her to check it out.  Liz says YBA played a big part in helping her move forward.  “They immediately knew how to approach and work with kids in my position.  They told me that I could succeed in life, but you need to have the tools, and they provided that for me.”

Our YBA program serves students who have dropped out of high school and provides them with academic and vocational instruction so they too will have the tools to realize their potential. Twenty years later, LearningWorks is still a part of Liz’s life.  “I love to come back each year and visit with the new group of students! Even though I have overcome a lot, there will always be a disconnect that I have with many people in the community. But when I see the new students, I immediately see myself in them.  I let them know that they need to accept responsibility and learn to accept their past; it is part of who they are. You cannot simply amputate a traumatic experience from your life. And the kids that I speak with now at YBA have the same hopes and dreams that I had and I’m there to tell them to not give up.  It is ironic that as even though I am a boxer one of the most important lessons I learned while at YBA, that I share with the students, is that you don’t have to fight every fight that presents itself to you.”

Liz’s transformational story inspires our current students and has struck a nerve in the wider community as well. She presented her journey at TEDxSMCC in a talk entitled “Shadow Boxing in the Dark” and has been profiled in a documentary feature, “The Liz Leddy Story.”

Liz continues to thrive. This June, she’ll be seeking her third National Golden Gloves title and continues to work as a personal trainer at the Portland Boxing Club run her own business. “Each day presents a new opportunity.”

Courtesy – Angie Devenney Photography