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Lirio Morales presenting
August 9, 2023

Service-driven Scholar Enters Harvard with Plans to Impact Youth Education

Lirio Morales Ibarra ’23, who majored in sociology and anthropology, capped off her senior year with an acceptance to Harvard’s Educational Leadership, Organizations and Entrepreneurship Program housed in the Graduate School of Education. She says Berry experiences — especially the opportunity to serve — played a crucial part in her success.

“I had no clue what I wanted to pursue in college and was amazed to be in a place with so many options and paths,” Lirio remembers. She jumped in and started exploring. Time spent in elementary education informed her that she loved working with youth but did not want to teach. However, she found direction when a course in the sociology of health fueled her interest in how social identities, systems and constructs affect the lives of community members.

Lirio, a Bonner Scholar, soon applied academic knowledge to real-world issues. For example, while serving in the YMCA’s afterschool program, her team worked closely with a family facing food insecurity because of limited resources and arranged to provide extra meals vital to the children’s well-being.

The experience made an indelible impression and inspired Lirio to compete in Berry’s Social Impact Challenge. Sponsored by the Center for Student Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development (C-SEED), the competition encourages individuals and teams to compete for a cash prize while identifying ways to improve the quality of life within a community.

“My team and I pitched a nonprofit business model [Anti-Hunger Coalition] connecting donated meals to local nonprofits in Rome, Georgia, in order to grow their capacity, thus allowing their funds to more greatly support their mission while fighting food insecurity,” she explains. Winning second place and $3,000 in funding, they went on to donate more than 1,000 meals to a local community partner whose mission is to support students’ academic success.

Lirio also notes the lasting value of on-campus positions through Berry’s LifeWorks program. Working as an Admissions Ambassador and student counselor in the Office of Enrollment Management offered insight into the field of education. As a peer career advisor in the Center for Personal and Professional Development, she assisted students with career goals, cover letters and resumes. She says, “I learned so much about professional development, which has meant a great deal to me as a first-generation college student.”

While navigating her next steps in education and entrepreneurship at Harvard, Lirio has a vision of how she wants to serve: “I hope this program will prepare me for my goal of being in a leadership role at a youth-serving nonprofit. Long-term, my goal is to create a scalable, transformational and financially sustainable social enterprise to empower students from marginalized communities to attain educational success.”

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