Minuteman Student Profile: Olivia Zarella
Minuteman High School senior has designs on success.
The following feature was provided by Judy Bass, communications specialist for Minuteman High School in Lexington.
Olivia Zarella of Lexington got the good news of a lifetime right in the middle of being interviewed for this story.
A senior studying Graphic Communications at Minuteman High School in Lexington, Olivia, 18, was jubilant when she glimpsed online on the evening of March 28 that she has been accepted to Emory University in Atlanta. In fact, all seven of the highly competitive colleges where she applied, including Bard College in New York, Marist College, also in New York, and Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, tapped Olivia for admission to their freshman class.
Although she had not decided which one she will attend this fall after graduating in June from Minuteman, Olivia has definite ideas about what she is seeking from her college education, which will likely entail a major in either pre-law or journalism.
“I need to be heard” in an atmosphere that is respectful, tolerant, encourages the lively give-and-take of ideas and accords each person the dignity and recognition he or she deserves, said Olivia, who is poised, articulate and focused far beyond her years. She also thrives on being challenged and self-sufficient and is eager to excel in everything she does.
“I’m not happy unless I’m doing the best I can,” said Olivia. “I've learned to take others’ opinions, but always rely on myself to get things done. I'm a competitive person by nature and I never underestimate myself.”
Some of these traits brought Olivia to Minuteman after spending her freshman year at Lexington High. The smaller student population at Minuteman, extremely close-knit school community, and the opportunity to earn certification and hands-on experience in her technical field and have a rigorous academic education simultaneously all appealed to her.
“Minuteman is just my right spot,” she said. “I feel more recognized there. I felt cared about as a student and as a person, so I did a lot better.”
Olivia has certainly thrived there. Ranked near the top of the Class of 2012, Olivia is on the yearbook staff and the National Honor Society, has participated in softball and tennis, is active in Rotary, and if that is not enough to keep her busy, she works on weekends at Joseph’s Restaurant in Waltham.
Plus, Olivia is one of the students representing her technical program, Graphic Communications, on the Minuteman Advisory Board. She attends monthly meetings along with others representing Minuteman’s Marketing and Computer Programming programs, offers ideas for fundraising, and provides input from a student’s point of view.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “It’s nice to be respected and trusted.”
Olivia’s creative side emerged with laudable results when she won a writing contest sponsored by an anonymous donor. Selected from among 18 finalists to receive the Author’s Award for Imaginative Writing,” Olivia penned a fantasy-themed short story in her junior year titled “Rapture,” about a fictitious Graphic Communications student in a dystopian, corrupt society. The honor was gratifying, she said, as was the $1,000 prize.
Another aspect of a Minuteman education that Olivia found valuable was the practical, real-world training. In Graphics, she not only learned how to use popular computer programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, but she also had to interact with actual customers who brought their printing jobs to the school.
Doing customer service, Olivia said, has given her a lot more confidence. “The customers put faith in my designing skills. It’s so great to see them trust a student to create their products," she said.
Other key skills she has acquired involve job-hunting, such as how to dress appropriately and present herself to potential employers.
“Minuteman is a hands-on school and it’s helped me a lot,” said Olivia. “It’s done more for me than any other school has. The teachers really care, the students are accepting, and you find your friends quickly. It’s been great, I love it.”