Documentary film producer. Emmy Award winner. Advocate for children and education. Visionary. Lisa Schmid Alvord, Class of 1961, has worn many hats and no ONE descriptor could possibly capture all that she has accomplished and done on behalf of others. Following a successful career as a documentary film maker and journalist, Lisa has made serving children from low-income families her life’s work. As the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, we honor her for her tireless devotion to giving at-risk children life skills and a strong foundation for the future.
Lisa spent her elementary school years at CRS. She commuted to CRS from Millis each day with her older brothers, Paul ’55 and Mark ’59. Following CRS, Lisa attended the Windsor School and then Boston University. After college, Lisa worked as an investigative reporter for Channel 12 in Providence, RI, traveled to the Easter Islands in New Guinea to work on a documentary, and returned to work at WGBH and at WCVB Channel 5, where she was a producer for Chronicle.
In 1984, Lisa produced several films on education, including the Peabody Award-winning documentary “Somerville High.” This documentary took an honest look at the school and its problems and exposed Lisa to the significant challenges both students and educators face in the US educational system. In 1992, she won an Emmy Award for an ABC After School Special called “In the Shadow of Love: A Teen AIDS Story.”
In the early 1990s, Lisa joined forces with CRS alums Kippy Dewey ’60 and her brother Toby ’62, to address the escalating violence facing inner-city youth in Boston. Together, they founded an innovative organization called Urban Improv, which uses improvisational theater to teach violence prevention, conflict resolution, and decision-making skills. Under Lisa’s leadership, Urban Improv partnered with Boston Public Schools to develop a social and emotional learning program for students. Since 1992, it has served more than 70,000 children in the greater Boston area, helping them explore challenging issues such as peer pressure, teen pregnancy, gangs, bullying, or racism. In 2002, Lisa and her Urban Improv team won a New England Emmy for “RE:Action!” – a two-part special showcasing the organization’s methodology (directed by CRS alum Peter Temple ’62).
Spending summers in Westport, MA Lisa has a strong connection to the Massachusetts Southcoast. Lisa recognized an opportunity to change the lives of young girls in the New Bedford area through education. According to the Boston Globe, “The city is home to many low-wage workers whose daughters battle poverty and the pull of traditional roles.” Working with a coalition of community leaders, educators, financiers, fund raisers, nonprofit executives, parents and a Board of Directors, Lisa opened Our Sisters’ School in 2008, an independent, tuition-free, non-sectarian middle school whose mission is to educate and inspire economically disadvantaged girls from the New Bedford area and empower them to step into the future with valuable life skills and a mindset of achievement and excellence by providing a safe, supportive, and academically challenging environment. Many OSS graduates go on to receive full academic scholarships at independent schools such as Andover, Milton Academy, St. George's, Loomis Chafee, and others.
“The school’s faculty and staff work closely with students’ families and other volunteers, building ties between school and community, and developing the kinds of personal and institutional support that will ensure the continuing success of the students in high school, college, and in later life,” said Lisa. “There are over 150 volunteers involved in the day operations of the school, reflecting a deep commitment from the local community to its faculty and students.”
Lisa Schmid Alvord has made an enormous impact on the lives of so many, and CRS is honored to present her with this year’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award.