Olivia credits her father as the person who fostered her love of marine science. Growing up in Florida, she and her dad spent countless days going to the beach, watching documentaries, and being out in nature anytime they could. 

Together with Olivia’s mom, the three of them made up “a wonderful little family.” As Olivia entered high school, she looked forward to graduating and attending the University of Florida — her father’s dream.

However, an accident during her sophomore year changed everything. Olivia’s father, an IT specialist, drove all over the country to visit clients in order to assist with technological issues. During a trip to Texas over Christmas break, her father suffered an injury on the road and tragically passed. Olivia was 16. 

The transition from a “wonderful little family” to just Olivia and her mother was brutal, made worse by the fact that her father was also the family’s only financial provider. 

“Our lives were turned upside down,” Olivia remembered, “from that happy, joyous, going out, hiking, watching documentaries, to where's my next meal going to come from? Or are we going to have to move out of the house I've always known?” 

As Olivia pushed through her grief to graduate high school, she was more uncertain than ever about her future plans. Between the financial burden of higher education and the trauma she and her mother were still processing, “I didn't even know if college was still in the books for me,” she recalled. 

Olivia and her mother decided that staying home and attending a local private university would be the best option. Though Olivia loved being near her mom and studying her dream of marine science, the cost of that university was very difficult. 

With still no source of family income, Olivia worked three jobs while completing her degree, an experience she characterized as “very frustrating.” She simply “wanted to focus on school, just like everyone else was.” However, once Olivia connected with Kids’ Chance, she got her wish — and so much more. 

“Walking into it, I thought Kids’ Chance was going to be like any other scholarship. Let's interview, cut you your check, here's your money. Instead, I found a community. They don't just care about helping us financially. They care about our wellbeing.” 

Olivia has since graduated with her master’s degree in marine science — a degree made possible by Kids’ Chance of Florida (KCFL). “They helped relieve the financial burden of graduate school and gave me the support backbone I needed to believe that the decision to go back to school was the right thing to do.” 

“Kids' Chance has changed my life by being the community that I needed in my darkest time,” she said, “supporting me throughout my education, and then further throughout my career.” 

Olivia is also proud of her new position as a Kids’ Chance Ambassador. “Kids' Chance has changed my life. My goal as an Ambassador is to give back and get the word out there, whether that's to students who are in need or donors and sponsors that would like to get involved.”