Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Homeless to Harvard' is a 2003 movie by director Peter Levin based on the true story of a girl who overcomes many obstacles to reach her dreams. These classroom discussion questions will help your students analyze this film.

Homeless to Harvard

What do you hope to accomplish? What challenges do you face to realizing your dreams? As students watch Peter Levin's Homeless to Harvard, they will see how Liz Murray's persistence paid off. The questions in this asset will guide classroom discussions about this film.

0:00-0:30

The questions in this section help students understand Liz's life with her parents and in the group home.

  • What are some factors that led to Liz Murray's homelessness? Describe Liz's family. What influence does Liz's mother have on her? Why does Liz's mother return to her abusive family of origin? Why doesn't Liz go with her mother?
  • Some children find their escape at school. Why is school a difficult place for Liz to be? Who are the people who support Liz? What could they have done to help her?
  • Compare Liz's life in the group home to her life at home. In what ways is it better? In what ways is it worse? What does this reveal about the system to protect children that we currently have in place? What could be done to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children?

0:31-1:00

This section contains questions about Liz's aimlessness when she first becomes homeless.

  • Liz and Chris become instant friends. What are some things they have in common? Why do they decide to run away together? Do you agree with their decision? What do you think they should have done? How do they help each other survive?
  • According to Liz, what is the definition of home? What is your definition of home? Using this definition of home, what is the psychological impact of homelessness?
  • What prompts Liz to change her life? What does she do differently once the decision is made? How does she hide her homelessness from the school? Why does she have to keep this secret?

1:01-1:28

The questions in this section support student comprehension of the resolution of the story as Liz makes a choice to create a better life for herself.

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