Alumni Spotlight: Amber Willis

Alumni Spotlight: Amber Willis, Karr Class of 2002
Posted on 04/21/2021

Amber Willis, Class of 2002, said she is proud to be a Karr graduate and delighted that her daughter will follow in her footsteps.

“It was one of the best schools in the city, and it still is,” she said. “Karr has a good name around New Orleans. People that graduate from there always have many opportunities. It’s a great school, and that’s the reason we chose it.”

Her daughter, Amaya, who will be graduating from Karr in May, agrees.

“I wanted to go to Karr because it seemed like it would be a fun high school experience and all of my classmates from Alice Harte were attending,” Amaya said. “I like the school spirit and how the teachers care about the students.”

Willis said she hopes her daughter will have great memories of her time at Karr, just like she does.

“My fondest memories were all the highlights of my senior year: the class trip, prom, senior picnic,” she said. “It was like the final hurrah for those of us who went to Karr for 7th through 12th grade and grew up together.”

She said Karr was family.

“Everyone was always looking out for each other. If your peers weren’t doing as well, you would uplift them,” she said. “It’s always been positive.”

Willis said she still keeps in touch with her high school friends. 

“They are all doing really great things,” she said. “At Karr, they always taught us the motto Second to None. Always be your best. Always do your best. I feel like that led me to where I am now.”

Willis is a resident dietician with Chartwells, a national food service company that serves more than 2 million meals a day to K-12 students across the country, including to scholars at InspireNOLA and other New Orleans schools.

“I kind of just fell into it. When I first went to college, I didn’t even know that this career existed,” she said. “I just knew that I loved food, being from New Orleans, and I was like let me research to see if I can have a career in this, and when I took my first nutrition class, I fell in love with it.” 

Willis began college at the University of New Orleans, but because of Hurricane Katrina, finished her degree in dietetics at Texas Southern University. 

Afterward, she came back to New Orleans and worked as a school food service manager for two years before returning to Southern University, Baton Rouge, to become a registered dietician. 

“When I passed my exam to be a dietician, that was the proudest moment for me,” she said.

She’s been working at Chartwells for the last three years. 

As her daughter prepares to wrap up her last year of high school, Willis shared some advice for her and her fellow Karr seniors as they look to the future.

“Don’t look at what others are doing, but always stay in your own lane. You can’t worry about what everyone else is doing because you’ll eventually get there,” she said. “Work hard, always do your best, and you will get there.”

This is part of an ongoing InspireNOLA Alumni Spotlight series highlighting the amazing paths scholars from Edna Karr High School, Eleanor McMain Secondary School, and McDonogh 35 Senior High School have taken since graduation.