Photography by Danny Fulgencio
Lisa Smith says she tries to be “the normal mom,” but perhaps these abnormal times need a “not-so-normal mom” to the rescue. Smith, a media assistant and community liaison at Hillcrest High School, has two sons who attend the school. When the coronavirus limited graduation activities for the class of 2020, she and fellow moms organized a senior appreciation event. It required a leader with better than average organizational skills. Neighbors and alumni adopted 240 seniors. The students lined up in their cars and drove through Franklin Stadium while teachers, administrators and neighbors gifted them with care packages ranging from $100 to $200 as a DJ played tunes. “Knowing that those kids were leaving their school forever and listening to them be so excited about prom and other things and knowing that none of that was going to happen, I knew we had to do something,” Smith says. “I was hoping this was going to be an event where the students realized, ‘I’m not a high school kid anymore. What I do next is going to be better.’ I felt like these are all my kids.”

On Life Lessons

Lessons from growing up:

“My dad died homeless and a drug addict, and it was a lesson learned. I knew how I wanted to raise my kids, and I knew that I didn’t want my kids to have to take care of me. My husband and I are both only children. We try hard to give our kids normal, even though that’s nothing that is familiar to us. They play sports. They are both in band. We do the mom and dad thing. Being a mom is one of my proudest accomplishments.”

On History

Her career background:

“I worked at Foster Elementary for 14 years. Before that, I was a Highland Park nanny and a preschool director. I also worked at Lamplighter. Recently I was community liaison at W.T. White High School for three years. I feel I was put on this earth to be with kids.”

On Advice

How she recruited volunteers for the senior appreciation event:

“Remember that I’m also important. I wish that I would have realized that it’s okay to just give yourself a break and not have a job to do.”

On High School

What she was like in high school:

“The word “goth” wasn’t really a word then, but I listened to alternative music. I put baby powder on my face and dyed my hair black. I went to prom with a boy who wore a leather skirt that he made himself. I was kind of a weirdo.”

On Recruiting

How she recruited volunteers for the senior appreciation event:

“I started with the people who were to line up with the packages. There were three or four teams. Every Friday the administration team would meet with three of us parents from that group. I did a Signup Genius with240 slots. The adopters really wanted to know the kids and where they were going. We surveyed the seniors to see what they wanted – school supplies, a Fitbit. Many wanted pots and pans. Some of these kids get three years to complete a two-year associate’s degree for free. What a great goal to have somebody tell you, “This is not just your mom, not just your dad, not just your teachers, not just the principal, but a stranger telling you, ‘You can do it.’”

On Legacy

How she would like to be remembered:

“I saw a quote from Pope Francis, and it says, “Rivers do not drink their own water, trees do not eat their own fruit, the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy, but much better when others are happy because of you.” I’m a connector.”

On Others

How neighbors can help:

“There are so many amazing things happening inside of those neighborhood schools and so many amazing kids. School should be a happy place. It should be where we come to get filled up, and then we should take what we’ve received and go fill up others.”


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