Invest in Kids’ executive director leads the charge to better the lives of vulnerable Colorado children and families, and strives for balance after a breast-cancer diagnosis
Lisa Hill was a psychology major at the University of Colorado, planning on a caregiver career after graduation. But after a summer internship for a Colorado congressman in Washington, D.C., “All of a sudden, it was: You can change the lives of millions by being in the policy space,” she says. Immediately she adjusted her career compass and it was the catalyst for her success today.
Before being named executive director of Invest in Kids in 2009, she developed high-profile work experience. She was part of the team traveling with a U.S. president on his re-election campaign, worked for a political consulting firm in San Francisco and was day-to-day manager for a Los Angeles city-council candidate’s campaign. After they candidate was elected, Hill ran the office, focusing on city services. “I found my love of not only serving constituents, but bringing people together to have conversations about an issue that may be polarizing—an issue that has a variety of perspectives—and where we need to find a common ground, she says. “To be able to do that is a gift.”
Hill’s resumé looks like that of a driven achiever and awards have followed. She was recognized as 9News Leader of the Year and named a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Livingston Fellow, which came with a $20,000 award.
Lisa Hill in person? An engaging bundle of focused energy. She says, “I’m known as a networker-connector. I’m optimistic. Empathetic and emotional. I’m the extrovert.” She’s also 6 feet 2 inches tall. “So in addition to having a loud voice, I have a strong presence physically—I can overwhelm people with the level of intensity I bring.” She balances that with a fun personality and also notes “I’m a hugger.”
After her post-collegiate West-Coast experience, Hill returned to hometown of Boulder with her then-husband, and in 2000 signed on as Invest in Kids’ deputy director at age 29. The nonpartisan nonprofit organization hangs its hat on bringing together community leaders, industry experts and its programs that are helping low-income young children in every single county in Colorado.
“My attraction to Invest in Kids was its commitment to allowing science to guide policy and practice,” she says. “IIK is committed to advancing evidence-based programs that have been proven to work, so we not only know we’re doing what’s best for an individual client or community, but ultimately there’s a cost return to society. For me, it’s essentially getting kids off to a strong start and leveling the playing field for everyone to be given the opportunity to succeed.”
Hill calls herself a servant leader. “It’s being in a position to support your colleagues in succeeding,” she says. “I’m a generalist. I have a strategic mind. I have a lot of relevant experience, but I supervise people who are experts. They teach me as much as I teach them. I’m surrounded by wickedly smart people who do great work.”
Hill lives in Broomfield, proudly co-parenting two daughters: Maggie, 14, and 12-year-old Allison. She says both seem to be on paths similar to their mom—along with the rest of their extended family of service-oriented achievers and caregivers.
Everything in Hill’s life—family, career, a four-year relationship with her partner John—was progressing nicely until June 20, 2017. That’s the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It’s been a transformational experience.” says the joyful optimist who looks for something positive from everything that happens. Since Hill’s HER2-positive diagnosis, she has undergone a bilateral mastectomy, three stages of reconstruction, hysterectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy and is completing a total of 18 immunotherapy treatments. She faces up to 10 years of continued rounds of medication, but says she’s grateful to have received a NED (No Evidence of Disease) prognosis. Hill believes her chemistry combined with environmental factors played a role in her diagnosis, notably her intense work schedule.
“I’m trying to live a more balanced life,” she says. “Not only take stock of all my blessings—which I always have—but to really be more present in the day and not take things for granted.” She has deliberately increased her off-the-clock time, and says spending time with her daughters is top priority. They also travel, as well as head outdoors for skiing, hiking or Hill’s new-found passion for photography.
Hill readily admits she’s not a worst-case scenario, but cancer has affected her life profoundly. She shared her situation publicly via social media on the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis. “If I could inspire one person (to get a mammogram), it’s worth letting folks know,” she says. “In my case, it has been easy to find the blessings in this situation. It serves me well. I feel strongly about making all the pain purposeful for me and my loved ones. There were a lot of lessons I had to learn and will continue to learn.
“I focus on a healthy relationship with work and home and not burning out—in the nonprofit sector in particular,” Hill says. “If I raised more money it would help more families. It’s a hamster wheel to work harder and have a bigger impact and provide more services to those in need. My concern is how to do it differently while maintaining the commitment. But now I’m finding a healthy balance of how all those worlds come together.”
1775 Sherman St., Suite 2075
Denver, CO 80203
Invest in Kids works to help vulnerable young children and families throughout Colorado with evidence-based programs, including:
– Nurse-Family Partnership: A nurse home-visitation program designed to improve the health, well-being and self-sufficiency of low-income, first-time parents and their children.
– The Incredible Years: A training series that engages parents and teachers to develop the social-emotional skills children need to succeed.
In pursuing outcomes, Invest in Kids will:
Identify programs with a proven track record of success.
Introduce these programs to communities where they can have the greatest impact.
Implement the programs through partners, in collaboration with community leaders.
Ensure each program’s continued success by measurement of results.
How to help
Annual fundraiser: JANE-A-Thon, March 1-2, 2019, at Winter Park
Volunteer, donate or join the JAT planning committee. For more information: Patrick Sablich at 303-839-1808, ext. 115.
Lisa Perry is a longtime freelance writer specializing in Denver entertainment and attractions, and a contributor to two regional golf magazines. She has covered Denver nonprofit fundraisers as a photojournalist since 2009, and is a new fan of Invest in Kids.
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