Leslie Morris is a native of Long Branch, NJ. She grew up in the Seaview Manor public housing complex under the watchful eyes of powerful men and women of faith, integrity, and character. She is the daughter of the late Nathaniel and Christine Morris, granddaughter of the late Susie Newsom and Lester and Sarah Morris, and sibling of Randy Phillips, Carol and Rodney Morris, all of Long Branch.
Leslie has spent most of her career in community-based health care at the local, statewide and national levels. In 1987 she developed and implemented the first comprehensive school-based health center in the state of New Jersey. Under the auspices of the Jersey City Medical Center and Jersey City Family Health Center, Leslie served as director of the school-based health center for 12 years. While there she distinguished herself in several ways. She implemented one of the first school-based HIV testing programs in the nation, and founded a nationally recognized teen abstinence program that culminated in three appearances on CBS-TV. Under her direction, the program offered comprehensive programs and services to the student population, ranging from onsite pregnancy testing to the full range of mental health and reproductive health services.
Following 12 years in Jersey City, NJ, she was called to work on a national level at the National Association of Community Health Centers in Washington, D.C. There she served for five years as director of the Adolescent and School Health Initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control. In this position she provided training, technical assistance, consultation and resources to the nation’s network of community health centers that sponsor school-based health centers. Leslie’s position enabled her to travel throughout the country and Puerto Rico where she assisted health centers in the development and implementation of school-based health centers. Leslie has published in the areas of adolescent health care.
Leslie resumed working in New Jersey, this time at New Jersey Primary Care Association in Hamilton, NJ. NJPCA is the membership organization for the state’s network of community health centers that serve poor and other underserved communities. For close to ten years, Leslie was Director of Community Relations where she provided strategic direction and hands-on assistance to the network of community-based health centers in the areas of outreach, eligibility enrollment processes, and behavioral health care.
In 2007, Leslie released her first book entitled, “How Ya Like Me Now!” which is an inspirational autobiography that provides vivid snapshots into her life’s journey as a child growing up in public housing in Long Branch, NJ. Leslie has used the book as a platform to inspire and motivate young people.
Leslie launched Women of the Dream in 2012 in partnership with Campbell Soup Company under the leadership of then President and CEO Denise Morrison. Leslie convened 32 Black women graduates of Simmons College, a private women’s college in Boston and her alma mater, for a focus group that involved guided discussions on where they began in life, their experiences at a women’s college during the Civil Rights movement, their personal and career challenges and successes, and how their stories can be used to guide a new generation of girls of color. Two years later, in June 2014, Women of the Dream joined the cadre of nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the lives of girls and young women in underserved areas.
Leslie is a graduate of Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her first Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Boston College and a second Master’s Degree in Public Health in the area of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the recipient of numerous awards, has appeared on NBC, FOX, and CBS, and featured in print media.