At Northwestern, she has worked with a Saturday program that focuses on disparities within the secondary school system and the achievement gap for minorities. This year, she served as a teacher’s assistant for science and math in a fourth grade classroom in Chicago.
“I led small group sessions to work on advanced concepts,” she said. “I was pushing them to work on sixth and seventh grade concepts. They got it so quickly.”
In the future, Wilson plans to focus some of her research on “how the school system disadvantages, particularly minorities.”
She said she owes much of her success to her parents. “Seeing my interest in education they made sure I had opportunities to explore education the way I wanted to,” Wilson said.
Her mother, Cynthia Wilson, said they never had to push Elizabeth Ruth.
“She was always driven…,” said the elder Wilson, speaking from the family home in Georgetown, S.C. “Elizabeth Ruth loved school so much. It seemed like if she got sick it was always on the weekend. She was back in school on Monday.”
Wilson said she and her husband were away from home much of Elizabeth Ruth’s senior year in high school after one of her brothers was diagnosed with bone cancer. This meant Elizabeth Ruth stayed with relatives and friends.
“She started the first day of school without us being here… She never complained, she stayed focused and she graduated valedictorian,” her mother said.
Elizabeth Ruth’s brother has since recovered and is in college now also.
Wilson agrees that Elizabeth Ruth may have picked up her love for community work from her parents.
“She always saw us helping people. We have always taken boys in from Tara Hall, a home for boys. My husband is on their board,” said Wilson, who had just returned home from a community organization fundraiser with her husband.
At one point in the interview, Wilson barely paused for a breath when she did what mothers do: She bragged about her daughter.
“She speaks four languages besides English: Portuguese, French, Swahili and Spanish. In seventh and eighth grade she was in a Duke University program because she scored high on the SAT. She taught in Senegal, Africa last year. Harvard kept calling the house trying to recruit her. She was the ‘2011 Outstanding Woman of the Year’ at USC…”
Finally, Wilson stopped, but she had to add one more thing. “Elizabeth Ruth, if she is going to a meeting, taking a test—whatever– she calls and says I need you to pray for this. She calls at least three times a week to ask for prayer.”
All of her success, Elizabeth Ruth Wilson believes is not for her alone.
“I think my mission is to inspire people to challenge their faith and also to push boundaries so much that people realize something they thought was impossible is actually feasible and they can apply the examples from my life to their own life. No limits. No boundaries. Aim for outer space, and you will find yourself soaring among the stars.”