St. Mary’s Academy junior Olivia DiGiulio serves a guest at Blanchet House in downtown Portland. “Growing up with the influence of Jesus’ teachings and serving those in need remind me of keeping everyone as your brother and sister,” she says. (Courtesy St. Mary’s Academy)
St. Mary’s Academy junior Olivia DiGiulio serves a guest at Blanchet House in downtown Portland. “Growing up with the influence of Jesus’ teachings and serving those in need remind me of keeping everyone as your brother and sister,” she says. (Courtesy St. Mary’s Academy)
When it comes to what many people would consider making an extraordinary difference in their community, St. Mary’s Academy junior Olivia DiGiulio credits her faith, family and inner values.

DiGiulio is one of seven high school students in the Portland metro area involved in a new student ambassador program at Blanchet House that is aimed at helping middle school students become more involved in community work.

“People discredit middle school students for lack of engagement, and I think they just have a lot of questions,” DiGiulio says.

DiGiulio’s volunteer efforts with the nonprofit social service organization all are performed during her free time.

“I think my Catholic faith plays a really big role as to why this is something I value,” she says. “Growing up with the influence of Jesus’ teachings and serving those in need remind me of keeping everyone as your brother and sister.”

The new ambassador program allows high school students with a passion for community service to utilize their leadership, organization, project management and teamwork skills. Throughout the year students are given assignments that will help those in need.

“I think it;s worth being able to connect with people completely outside of your circumstances and realize we experience things differently but there’s really a greater thread between everyone,” says DiGiulio.

DiGiulio’s exposure to community work started when she was 9 years old at her elementary school. She said opportunities there and at St. Mary’s Academy allowed her to dissolve the prejudices she may have had without those experiences.

“When you’re young you’re taught to look straight when walking down a public street and to not talk to anyone,” She says. “Those are all for good reasons, but I had a hard time separating that from being able to engage. Growing up in Portland, houselessness is all around you, and it’s something I’ve seen, and it’s bothered me that I haven’t been able to do anything about it. At this point I’m taking ownership and if there’s something I can to do help, I will continue doing so.”