Lisa Russell is the Founder & Executive Director of Educational Tutorial Services (E.T.S) founded in 1996.
Lisa started her career with AT&T right after graduate school, but the ‘dream job’ ended when a sharp economic downturn forced the company to lay off thousands of people.
“I just picked up where I had left off — I tutored to help pay my way through grad school. There was such an incredible need, and I was not one to sit still”, says Lisa.
She built E.T.S. from the ground up, working tirelessly as she became increasingly aware of the plight of so many foster children who don’t get a fair shake. Lisa feels the same today as she did back then, that every child deserves an equal opportunity at an education and a future.
Lisa comes from a long line of teachers, including her dad, a math teacher. “He helped out a lot” says Lisa, “ he is a big advocate for what I am doing. For many years, he joined in the company —tutoring, helping with the technology and office, and generally keeping me on my toes!”
Creating partnerships and removing barriers for children in foster care
After nine years in business, E.T.S. nearly closed in 2005 when Lisa was diagnosed with cancer — stage 4 Lymphoma. The company lost most of its clients during the early phases of her sickness, but Lisa was determined to come back. Once she was able to get out of bed, she put on her wig and started making sales calls again, all while going through Chemo treatments. She even remembers traveling to California for one pitch meeting, returning home just in time for her next treatment.
Since that point Lisa has had an expanded sense of purpose – “I felt I was given a tremendous gift” she says, “I was reborn.”
E.T.S. is now a nationwide provider helping over 20,000 students each year, and Lisa is not done yet.
“Blue sky for me is when all the children we serve are mainstreamed and have the chance at college. Also, when E.T.S. is part of the change we seek within the foster care system, advocating for equal educational rights regardless of a students socioeconomic background.”
Clearly, Lisa Russell has not finished her work yet.
Lisa does a tremendous amount of charitable work for fine organizations including Pittsburgh’s Finest Fifty, Cystic Fibrosis, The National Children’s Cancer Foundation, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, World Vision and others. She was a social entrepreneur before it was a thing, and has always maintained E.T.S. as a mission driven company.
“For me, it has always been about giving back,” says Lisa. “Trying to make a difference in the lives of the children we serve.”