Lee Russell ’97

“Picture for a moment your worst day and multiply it by ten and you start to get a sense of how difficult it is to live in Ethiopia.”

That is exactly what Lee Russell ’97 and his wife, Susan, experienced when they traveled to Ethiopia in 2009 to adopt a nine-month old girl named Aster. In a country where it’s a daily struggle to find clean water and sustainable food sources, the reality of life in Ethiopia was in stark contrast to Lee’s and Susan’s own, and what they were hoping to provide for Aster.

“The adoption process was certainly life changing. Traveling to Africa, specifically a third world country like Ethiopia, has given us a new perspective,” said Russell, a sixth grade social studies teacher in Newport, RI. Susan also teaches at a local middle school.

Their experience in Africa and becoming parents changed not only how they perceive the world, but also how they feel about teaching: “We now have a deeper understanding of the kids who are in front of us in our classrooms.”

Aster seems to have inherited her father’s “can-do” attitude. “Aster is amazing,” Russell said. “She is a survivor, and it is evident in her strong-willed determination to accomplish everything on her own. She has taught us the definition of proud.”