I have known for quite some time that everyone loves Ellen Levy Schwartz (@EllenLevySchwartz), but it really became apparent every time I posted a picture of the two of us during one of our coffee dates. My “likes” on social media skyrocketed.
Granted, I should not – ever – (and neither should you!) care about how many likes I receive on my posts, but I have to admit, I find it quite amusing.
Ellen is not only the founder of Project Give Back (@project_give_back), she is a devoted mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, loyal friend, author, and teacher. How could I not ask her to share her thoughts on the question “What would you say to your teenage self?” In the book Get Up?
Before we unpack her powerful answer, have a seat, grab your favourite beverage and get to know my friend Ellen Levy Schwartz. You too will be on the “Everyone loves Ellen” team, just like me.
What is your day job and how did you get here?
I founded Project Give Back a year-long program for elementary students designed to develop, empathy, build character and ignite community-minded leaders who care. I was a teacher for over 18 years and once our firstborn child was diagnosed with Canavan Disease, which is a fatal, rare, and progressive illness, my teaching focus changed. Project Give Back’s curriculum was created in my own classroom. I reached out to some very inspiring teachers and together we took Project Give Back on the road to private and public schools.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned on the job?
Everyone has a story to share and teachers come from many different places and ages. When we open our hearts and minds we can learn so much from others.
Since the pandemic began, have the children changed in your Project Give Back classes?
I think we have all changed since the pandemic started. Children have learned that life can go on, even during difficult times. They have become more resilient, flexible, and appreciative. I hope this sticks as life begins to open up for them. I hope the lessons they have learned continue to propel them forward to help them with future challenges.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned in life?
I have written two and a half books, which enabled me to share my most meaningful lessons with the world.
My debut book is called Lessons From Jacob. This is where our son Jacob’s story begins. Jakey wasn’t able to see, speak, eat by mouth, or move, however, the number of powerful lessons he taught us, and everyone around him was astounding.
Without One Word Spoken (which has a second edition, that’s why I count it as “one and a half”) gave me the opportunity to reflect on the lessons I have learned from mothering Jacob, Bevvy, and Ben and how our family coped and continues to cope after Jacob’s passing.
All proceeds for these books go to Project Give Back’s initiatives in the classrooms.
My hope is that the reader will learn about how Jacob lived every day of his miraculous life. To be positive, kind, understanding, grateful, and be able to live in the moment. I know if I follow those rules, regardless of the situation, life is better and more manageable.
What exactly do you mean when you said:
“If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right, for you.”
I think often teens underestimate the power of their own gut feeling. That little voice in their heads that says, this just doesn’t feel right. Usually, when it doesn’t feel right it isn’t. I’m not talking about the risks and challenges that we must face. Braving your way is a skill that needs to be practiced. I’m talking about peer pressure and people trying to change who you are and what you stand for.
These wise words are SO TRUE! although they are so suitable for teens, I think this advice can be relatable for any age and for any circumstance. (I write this from experience, and I’m sure many adults would agree) Thank you, Ellen, for sharing your story of Jacob with us and for being a mentor in Get Up. Your advice to your teenage self is pure gold that I know many will cherish and will relate to. Now, do you see why everyone loves Ellen?