Angela Sivers, Dr. Robert Hughley, and Father Dave Zegar after St. Andrew’s Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Mass.
Angela Sivers, Dr. Robert Hughley, and Father Dave Zegar after St. Andrew’s Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Mass.
At the Martin Luther King Jr. Awards at St. Andrew Parish last month, 15-year-old Angela Sivers stood beside Dr. Robert Hughley, a veteran of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, and in Portland, and a distinguished retiree from a career in education.

The awards committee wrote that Sivers, despite her youth, had logged an impressive amount of time and effort toward social justice work, and that she “represents the future of continued hope and ‘the dream’ of Dr. Martin Luther King.’” They honored her with the Community Service Award.

That sounds terribly serious, but Sivers, a sophomore at St. Mary’s Academy, bubbles with laughter as she details the fun she had last summer volunteering for Immaculate Heart’s Vacation Bible School. She laughs again describing working on the Operation Appreciation team at St. Mary’s. “We love bomb the teachers,” she says, explaining that the communications department and front office staff at the downtown school deserve far more love than they get. “It’s so much fun.”

Sivers is on her way to Mississippi for an immersion service trip this month, staying with the Holy Names Sisters in Jonestown (pop. 1,298, 96 percent African-American, median income for a family: $18,958).

That fits in perfectly for Sivers, who has already taken part in an international youth forum (she and three partners presented a two-hour discussion of gangs and sex trafficking).

Her daunting list of activities includes playing on the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams at St. Mary’s, serving as a St. Mary’s ambassador (accompanying girls interested in attending), taking part in the Campus Ministry and Service program (often as a eucharistic minister at school Masses) and participating in the Black Student Union. She’s also part of a group hoping to put on a benefit for the homeless youth served by Janus Youth Programs and planning to run for student council next year.

Maria Fleming, former service coordinator at St. Mary’s and now a teacher in theology department, says what stands out for her is Sivers’ willingness. “If you ask her to do something she’ll do it. She’s highly competent, humble and has a willing spirit that I think will last her whole life. She has a deep reservoir of faith that shines through.”

Sivers also won the top spot at the HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth) Leadership seminar this coming summer at Willamette University.

“I’m often stressed,” she admits. “But I like to say ‘yes.’”

She makes it work through strict scheduling, doing homework in chunks of time around church and soccer on the weekends, for instance.

She thinks she might like to work in the diplomatic corps — or perhaps be a lawyer. “My mom says I’d be good at that, because I’m good at arguing.”

Sivers’ drive comes naturally: she’s the second of Colleen and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers’ four children. Deacon Burke-Sivers speaks internationally on mens’ spirituality, and is CEO of Servant Enterprises, Inc. “Dad has influenced me,” Angela Sivers says. “He’s a great role model. And I don’t know how my mother does it. There are six people in my family and one car, but she gets us everyplace we need to go.”

Her older sister, a senior at St. Mary’s, was an influence as well — as was her youth group at Holy Redeemer Parish and St. Mary’s Academy, places that keep students safe and yet introduce them to injustice in the world.

Sivers remembers a St. Mary’s religion teacher who discussed how injustice reaches through generations: Asian sex workers whose daughters become sex workers, for instance, a situation so far removed from the girls in the class as to be in a different world.

“You’ve won the lottery of life,” the teacher told the young women.

“That stuck with me,” Sivers says. “I am grateful for all I’ve been given.”