ETHS student received “Future of Evanston Award” for service to the city
For 14-year-old Evanston resident Olivia Ohlson, community service has always been at the heart of life.
Conversations with other residents are the foundation of Ohlson’s work. It does not focus on a particular cause. Instead, she watches the news and jumps to fill any gap she sees, according to her mother Gini Ohlson. When COVID-19 hit, Ohlson noticed that organizers were setting up pantries and clothing drives, but saw no one intervene to distribute hygiene items like soap, shampoo, hair brushes. teeth, razors. She knew what to do.
“It started with me, with donations from friends, family and classmates, and cash income,” Ohlson said. “Once we received enough cash donations, we made our first batch of kits and distributed them to Vineyard (Church), then slowly moved on to other nonprofits and others. organizations.
On Wednesday evening, the city presented Ohlson with the “Future of Evanston Award”. The award was presented by the city, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce and Northwestern University as part of the annual MashUp event celebrating partnerships between groups. Ohlson was one of three winners this year.
Ohlson has partnered with nonprofits in Chicago, school districts and businesses in Evanston to find drop-off locations for the kits. C&W Market, Connections for the Homeless and My Block, My Hood, My City, a Chicago nonprofit, were among the drop-off points for Ohlson’s kits.
In the past, Ohlson has worked with other community organizations in the Chicago area. One of these organizations was the Honeycomb Project, which focuses on family volunteer work and enables young people to volunteer.
Once the pandemic started, Ohlson also got involved in digital awareness. On her Youtube channel, she read books and filmed math tutorials for students who were unable to access classrooms in person during the pandemic. She also tutored local students in math as she read about students who fell behind when not attending school.
Ohlson hopes to join the Community Service Club and the Emerge Leadership Program. She aspires to become a doctor and biomedical engineer.
Gini Ohlson said she would encourage her daughter, who she says “is interested in almost everything”, to consider all the possibilities that a career path can offer.
“When she has something on her mind, she chases it, and I mean, I think it started out as the lemonade stand, it was her first project…” said Gini Ohlson. “Even at 10 years old, (she) was doing 85 to 90% of the work. She just always has to keep her mind active. She always enjoys helping people.
Earlier this year, singer-songwriter Jenn Hartmann Luck wrote a song in honor of Ohlson’s many acts of service. “Lemonade”, which Hartmann Luck released in September, will be one of the tracks on an upcoming album of songs about youth advocates. Minnesota author Stacy C. Bauer will also include Ohlson’s story in her children’s book series about how kids make a difference.
After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, 10-year-old Ohlson started a series of pink lemonade and cookie stalls. She donated all proceeds to the NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center, where his mother was treated.
Hartmann Luck said that the way young people shape the adults in their lives and treat people is special. Ohlson and her mother together created a path to give back, she said.
“(It’s) this idea of taking lemons and turning them into a kind of lemonade mentality,” Hartmann Luck said. “Olivia looks at our community and says, ‘Where can I help? Where is a need and how can I meet it? ‘ “
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