[Hpn] fyi: Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story: Lifetime Channel; 4/7 @ 9 PM ET

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Mon, 07 Apr 2003 11:25:51 -0400

-------Forwarded FYI-------

Lifetime Original Movie:

Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story: Lifetime Channel
Airs on Monday, April 7th evening at 9:00 PM ET/PT: 

~~~forwarded excerpts:

Premiering April 7 at 9 pm et/pt [CC] [SAP]

At age 15, Liz Murray found herself out on the streets, destitute and alone. 
But instead of crumbling, this troubled teen clung to hope — and her 
determination got her all the way to Harvard University. This incredible, 
true life story stars the fabulous Thora Birch as Liz Murray. [Click here to 
read the synopsis. 

Encore dates:
» Monday, April 7 at 11 pm et/pt
» Sunday, April 20 at 7 pm et/pt
» Wednesday, April 30 at 9 pm et/pt

--end of forwarded excerpts--

For lots more, check out the Lifetime Movies Hot Ticket: 


-------Forwarded articles ~~~ fyi-------

Friday, April 4, 2003
Journal News <http://www.thejournalnews.com/>
[serving New York’s Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties]
Life & Style section
'Homeless to Harvard'

(Original publication: April 4, 2003)


Seeing the film
What: "Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story," starring Thora Birch and 
Kelly Lynch, on Lifetime Television.
TV premiere: 9 p.m. Monday.
Additional airtimes: 7 p.m. April 20 and 9 p.m. April 30.
Information: http://www.lifetimetv.com

--[end of sidebar]

How does a homeless Bronx teenager with two drug-addicted parents end up 
graduating at the top of her high-school class and getting a scholarship to 
Harvard? For Liz Murray, it was the only way out of a downward spiral that 
had swept her family into a hellish existence — and found the teen 
scrounging for food and sleeping on the subway.

"I was uprooted by my circumstances. I lost everything. Where can you go if 
you hit bottom? You can only go up," says Murray, 22, whose life story has 
been made into a Lifetime movie starring Thora Birch and Kelly Lynch.

"Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story," set to make its television 
debut Monday, tells the story of Murray's childhood in the South Bronx, 
growing up with parents who were loving — but hopelessly addicted to cocaine 
and alcohol. "I didn't notice that it was abnormal," says Murray, who was in 
junior high when she finally realized that other parents didn't shoot up in 
the living room. "They used the drugs openly."

Her mother developed AIDS when Murray was 10, and several years later the 
family split apart. Her father moved into a shelter, while Murray and her 
older sister accompanied their mother to the home of a man they referred to 
as their godfather. In truth, says Murray, "he was one of my mother's 
drinking buddies from the bar."

By the time she was 15, Murray had quit going to school and was spending 
much of her time on the streets of the Bronx, stopping in at friends' 
apartments to wash her hair or do the occasional load of laundry. "I was 
always aware of being an imposition," she says. Whenever she heard 
whispering in the kitchen, she knew her friends' parents were talking about 
her — and that it was time to move on.

Then Murray's mother, Jean, died of AIDS at 42.

"After my mom passed away, I realized I needed to get myself together," says 
Murray, so she threw herself into a summer job fund-raising for NYPIRG (New 
York Public Interest Research Group), ringing doorbells in the suburbs and 
earning enough cash to make a new start. With her father's support, Murray 
enrolled at a public high school in Manhattan and crammed four years of 
classes into two years — still living on the streets and studying in 

It was Perry Weiner, one of her teachers at Humanities Preparatory Academy, 
who spotted Murray's intelligence and drive, and urged her to apply for a 
New York Times college scholarship. But the uniqueness of her situation only 
struck her afterward, as she stood in line at the welfare office — anxious 
to make appointments scheduled for later with representatives of the Times 
and of Harvard. (When Murray asked a welfare employee if she could move to 
the front of the line, the woman shot back: "Take a seat. The lady in front 
of you has an interview at Yale!")

Murray says now that while Harvard proved to be "one of the most intriguing 
environments," it was perhaps not the best match. She left school recently 
to help care for her HIV-positive father, whose health is on the decline — 
and who likes to refer to Murray as his hero — and plans to study writing 
and film at a New York-area college.

Meanwhile, she has been thrown into the world of professional filmmaking, 
helping fine-tune the script for "Homeless to Harvard," playing a small role 
as a social worker, and serving as the movie's co-executive producer. Murray 
says she is happy with the final product and relieved that the film avoided 
villainizing her mother (played by Kelly Lynch) and her father (portrayed by 
Michael Riley).

Lifetime executives are also pleased with the movie — and impressed with the 
real-life Murray's poise and determination. "This kid is just incredible," 
says Lifetime executive vice-president Meredith Wagner, who helped put 
together a companion kit on homelessness that was distributed recently to 
40,000 schools nationwide. "It's a wonderful story about self-esteem and 
following your dreams, and it shows that people have the spirit to achieve 
things that might have seemed impossible."

For Murray, nothing seems impossible. After she wraps up a whirlwind press 
tour, she'll get back to work on her memoir — due to be published next 
spring by Hyperion — and plans to continue speaking out around the country 
about the power of human will.

"I think, even if you have limits on you, work with what you have," she 
says. "People have more control than they realize."


--end of first forwarded article--


Movie Shows 'Homeless to Harvard' Journey

Mon Apr 7, 7:18 AM ET

By ELIZABETH LeSURE, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - When Liz Murray didn't have a bed, she and a friend would 
sometimes go to a diner in the Bronx, pool their change to buy french fries 
with gravy and cheese, and take naps with their heads resting on the table.

Since then, the 22-year-old has been to Harvard University and back again in 
a real-life story of willpower and determination that has inspired a 
television movie.

When "Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story" premieres on Lifetime 
Television on Monday at 9 p.m. EDT, Murray wants viewers to come away with 
the notion that changing your life is "as simple as making a decision."

"I want them to feel empowered, to really take charge," she said, nibbling 
on a veggie burger at the same diner, near the elevated tracks of the No. 4 

Murray's story has a happy ending, but it isn't simple. It winds through 
streets and stairwells, group homes and subway stations, and touches upon 
deeply emotional territory.

So when a special about her life on ABC's "20/20" led to movie offers, she 
was told to be skeptical.

"I'd been warned so much about these 'movie people,'" said Murray, dressed 
in jeans and sneakers, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. "I haven't 
regretted it at all."

The movie stars Thora Birch (news) as Liz, and Kelly Lynch (news) as her 
mother, and follows Murray on a journey that begins in the Bronx apartment 
where she lived in poverty as a child.

Murray is now living her new life in the old neighborhood, in her own 
apartment around the corner from the diner. She relates wrenching bits of 
her past matter-of-factly, fixing a strong, steady gaze on the listener.

Her parents were addicted to drugs, and she grew up watching their money 
disappear. By the time she was 15, her mother was sick with AIDS (news - web 
sites) and her father was living in a shelter.

Determined to stay out of the child welfare system but with no stable home, 
she and her friend Chris — played in the movie by Makyla Smith — packed 
their bags and set out on their own. There were nights they crashed at 
friends' apartments or rode the subway until dawn, and nights they slept on 
a rooftop landing, using flannel shirts as blankets.

In 1996, Murray's mother died, and she vowed to change her life. She 
returned to high school and stayed to study long after classes ended, never 
telling her teachers that she was homeless for fear she would be sent to a 
group home.

Murray managed to graduate from the Humanities Preparatory School in two 
years. She won a New York Times scholarship and was accepted to Harvard.

To make "Homeless to Harvard," she sat down with screenwriter Ronni Kern and 
recounted her story for three days.

"This was not a story that we had to fictionalize to make it more compelling 
or more dramatic," said Trevor Walton, senior vice president for movies at 

Murray is credited as a co-executive producer and has a cameo as a social 

She says it was crucial for her to make sure her parents were portrayed with 
sensitivity. The movie strives to reflect her complicated relationship with 
them, opening with a monologue delivered by Birch that echoes her own words:

"I loved my mother so much. She was a drug addict. She was an alcoholic. She 
was legally blind. She was a schizophrenic. But I never forgot that she 
loved me, even if she did — all the time, all the time, all the time."

Murray decided to leave Harvard several months ago, and now lives with a 
roommate, close to her friend Chris, her sister, and her father, Peter 
Finnerty, who is HIV (news - web sites) positive and has been struggling 
with complications of Hepatitis C.

"I need to feel more grounded than I did," she said. "I didn't feel grounded 

She has been taking care of her father, working on a memoir and giving 
motivational speeches, and plans to continue her college education with film 
courses over the summer.

"I'm really excited," her father said. "I'm very proud."


--end of second forwarded article--


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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
Norsehorse's Home Turf: http://nht.blogspot.com

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