Olivia Viens on Special Education, Lifeguarding, Theatre, and More
by Laura Emde
“You just have a superpower.” This is the message Olivia Viens wants to give to children with disabilities one day as a special education teacher. She is tired of hearing these children put themselves down due to their disabilities, and she is determined to make these children understand just how incredible they truly are.
Olivia, a 17-year-old girl from Canton, Massachusetts, is familiar with this burning feeling that she does not fit in during class. “Being someone that has ADD, [...] I have been made fun of before for not being able to focus,” Olivia says. Having experienced this before, it fires something up in Olivia when she “[sees] kids that are made fun of because of their disability.” She wants to tell these children that they “just do things differently than other people and that’s not your fault” and help them to see that there’s nothing wrong with them.
Olivia has a strong passion for helping others, which stretches into her job as a lifeguard in the summer at Blue Hills Country Club and a swim instructor at Blue Hills High School in the winter. She assists people at the pool in both of these jobs, ensuring the safety of patrons at the country club and showing kids the skills they need to become incredible swimmers. However, I would keep her far away from any CPR dummies you have, because let’s just say Olivia doesn’t have a very good history with those.
“That’s just a Liv thing to do,” she says on the subject. During her lifeguard training, she and the other students were practicing CPR when Olivia grabbed one of the dummies by the neck, and the next thing she knew, his head was gone. Olivia remembers her instructor looking her dead in the eyes and telling her, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” “It broke my heart a little bit at first,” Olivia says while reflecting on the memory. However, she later states that “it was also the funniest thing that happened to [her] as a lifeguard [...] because that would only happen to [her].”
Fortunately, Olivia’s track record with helping people isn’t all bad. She remembers this past summer when she discovered that she was going to be one of the Drama Club’s four officers for the 2020-2021 school year. “As soon as I saw the email, I looked at it and [...] it said congratulations. It was from our director and I was like “no way… no freaking way!’” Olivia says as she fondly recalls the experience. She remembers running downstairs to her mom and telling her the good news. Olivia says she felt so proud of herself because “[she] can make a difference now in the club”, which is something she’s been wanting to do since she joined the Drama Club.
On the subject of her mom, Olivia’s mother is not any ordinary mom. Her mother, Eve Viens, grew up in England, and Olivia has learned a lot after seventeen years of living with a parent from a foreign country. Olivia tells me that one of the biggest things she remembers from her childhood was that “[her] mom hated the word awesome so much [because] she thought it was such an American thing” after watching The Lego Movie with Olivia. “[In] her mind, it was as bad as saying the f-word,” Olivia recalls. Other differences she notes between England and the United States are different words and pronunciations, such as her mother calling underwear “knickers” and pronouncing the name of the restaurant Chipotle as “Chi-pot-el”. Another difference she tells me about is how in England, they celebrate the fifth of November, as it is the anniversary of when Guy Fawkes tried to bomb the Tower of London but ultimately failed, and he was later executed. “We all [...] go outside and watch fireworks and drink hot chocolate and apple cider,” Olivia tells me about this British tradition. She jokingly states that “British people are weird” as I laugh, drawing a comparison between Guy Fawkes and the Salem Witch Trials. The Drama Club performed The Crucible by Arthur Miller for its fall play last year, so Olivia got the joke immediately and we both burst out laughing.
I have known Olivia since middle school and I can truly attest to what an amazing person she truly is. She has always been someone who looks at the bright side of things and always wants to help people in any way she can. I know she is going to do amazing things one day, and I hope that one of those things will be the message she’s been waiting so long to get across to kids with disabilities: “You just have a superpower.”