Irving first-grader Owen Moreland has the “cool aunt.” Amy Liss, his mom’s twin, has a fancy power wheelchair to give Owen rides in, and her best friend, Amazon’s Alexa, helps her message Owen before bed every night.
Aunt Amy has gone to dinner with Cubs’ manager David Ross and has worked alongside Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Julie Foudy. She earned straight A’s in high school and was in the National Honors Society, but she loves to play video games, listen to music and watch college basketball, too.
She also has severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a motor disability that affects her ability to move and maintain balance and posture. She uses a power wheelchair, has typical intelligence and is verbal but does not have the ability to perform daily living skills independently.
This week, students got to meet Liss at Irving’s first in-person assembly since the pandemic began–and Owen got a front row seat.
Liss shared with students that although there are a lot of things she can’t do because of her disability, she likes to focus on what she can do. She works as a relationship coordinator for Easterseals of DuPage and Fox Valley and is on staff at The Julie Foudy & espnW Sports Leadership Academy. On Fridays, she volunteers at her old elementary school. She paints, reads and rides her bike with help. Owen helps her to draw.
The assembly was organized as part of Irving's Respect Week, a time to celebrate inclusion for people with disabilities and promote respect for all. March is also Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. In 2020, Irving was named a Special Olympics National Banner Unified Champion School for its demonstrated commitment to inclusion. Irving also partners with The Nora Project– a non-profit who trains and coaches educators and offers SEL programs that explore concepts of empathy and inclusion, and address disability as part of human diversity.
After sharing her story, Liss answered questions from students, such as: How do you get on planes? Are you famous? Have you ever been bullied? Liss has flown as far as Puerto Rico, but prefers to travel by car or train; she does not consider herself famous, though she did present “the cutest” Cub, Kris Bryant, with his World Series ring; and she’s never been bullied thanks to her tight-knit family and friends. She thinks that it also helps that her disability is so visible and asked students to always “be careful” and kind because classmates may have disabilities that you cannot see.
By the end of the assembly, Owen was the first one on his feet for her standing ovation, and it was clear to students and staff what makes Aunt Amy just so cool.