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Olivia Rich: Daring move to change paths leads to success

Olivia Rich, 18, United States

Olivia Rich

My entire life, my dream was to be a well-known performer. Recently, this idea took a 180-degree turn. Now, my most important goal in life is to provide an arts education to anyone and everyone who deserves it.

At my university, I study Voice Performance and Psychology in hopes to one day be a music therapist. I am extremely intrigued by the healing power of music and how much of a difference it can make in the cognitive development and well-being of people, most specifically children with learning disabilities.

I am the founder and leader of Artists Striving to End Poverty University of Rhode Island chapter. This is a group of like-minded students who want to help provide artistic opportunities to those who are denied of them. The arts played a huge role in my childhood, and I want all children to have the same artistic opportunities that I did growing up.

Taking acting classes helps with team-work, communication skills, creative thinking, and problem solving. Learning how to play an instrument teaches perseverance and responsibility, sharpens concentration, fosters self-expression, relieves stress, enhances coordination, and can better mathematical ability, reading, and comprehension skills.

Every human should have the opportunity to learn an instrument or be given a chance to act. Through ASTEP, an amazing organization that sends volunteers to arts programs for impoverished youth around the world, I became a trained Teaching Artist and volunteered at a children’s camp in South Florida called Art-In-Action, founded by EnFAMiLIA. The camp was created in a community that once lacked quality art education. I taught music and dance.

While volunteering at Art-In-Action, I discovered that even the “bad” kids, who are often reprimanded for doing things “wrong”, were transformed when playing an instrument. One boy, who would often get in trouble, was a fantastic drummer (which he learned to play at camp) and was praised for his talent and hard work, something he was not used to. This, to me, is beautiful, and something that every child should have. This boy would not have had the opportunity to learn how to play the drums if not for the Art-In-Action summer camp.

Recently, I organized an instrument drive, and donated various instruments to Hungry for Music. This is an organization that goes across the country, collecting instruments and disturbing them to communities in need. They provide the instruments to children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn.

My future plans include using the talents of the URI ASTEP members to raise money for various organizations, such as the 1-of-52 Hunger Network, which is a great local organization that I am a part of, and GEAR (Give Everyone a Role) Productions, a theater company that allows actors with special needs to develop and perform a show. The other members of ASTEP URI and I plan on becoming involved with GEAR this coming semester, as well as developing an after school art and tutoring program to children in our community who are living in poverty. The after school program that these children used to have has recently been de-funded, and I plan to work with my chapter to create a new program for them. I hope to volunteer at other programs through ASTEP, such as Shanti Bhavan in India and the International Rescue Committee’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy in New York. I want to use my skills to help improve the lives of as many children as I can.

I am looking forward to meeting so many like-minded individuals from across the globe at this summer’s Youth Assembly at the United Nations. Hearing the ideas of others, especially those who are working towards the Quality Education Sustainable Development Goal, will help me reach my own goals. It will be a refreshing and exciting experience to hear the perspectives of youth from around the world. I believe that when passionate individuals come together and work towards a common goal, big things can happen.

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