Cumberland International Early College High School
Meet Olivia Blackshire
“Being a Light in the Darkness”
In 2017, Olivia Blackshire and her family experienced an unthinkable tragedy. Her brother, Calvin was the victim of a fatal robbery that was live-streamed on social media. Olivia and her family dealt with the aftermath of his death through the investigation to the trial and helping to raise his young son. Every step of the way, Olivia persevered. No excuses, no complaints. Just steadfast kindness and care.
This month, Olivia will graduate in the top three of her class from Cumberland International Early College High School. Olivia is an active member of the National Honor Society, Academic Scholars, Global Girls and the Speech and Debate Team. She has been a member of Global Girls since the ninth grade where she inspires younger girls to open up and feel comfortable in the sisterhood. She has been the parliamentarian for three years. As a senior, Olivia was a shoo-in for the Presidency for the club; however, she elected to stay in her leadership position and inspire the younger ladies to step up and lead. She tutors others and gives selflessly in her community—a true inspiration to all.
“Olivia battled and overcome many of the same challenges we all faced this year, in addition to a personal family tragedy,” said Shannon Donohue Jarman, one of Olivia’s teachers. “She has done so with a smile, grace, and the willingness to work hard to overcome every challenging moment.”
Like high school seniors everywhere, the CIECHS class of 2021 has not experienced the senior year they thought they would, with isolation from COVID-19, virtual learning and unexpected complications.
“Through it all, Olivia has been a rock for her family, friends, and her CIECHS family,” said Jarman. “Olivia is that dream student. Excellent grades, brilliant work ethic, and always a joy to work with. She has a knack for bringing out the best in everyone. Her classmates look to her for support and inspiration.”
Jordan Fenty, one of Olivia’s classmates, agrees: “Olivia goes above and beyond in everything that she does. Seeing how hard she worked made me want to work even harder. She taught me that I needed to do more than just 100 percent; I needed 110 percent. Excellence is her middle name, and I am glad to have worked alongside her.”
As Olivia reflects on her time at CIECHS and Cumberland County Schools, there are many teachers who stand out, including Ms. Jarman, who was her English teacher. Ms. Jarman taught Olivia about the beauty and depth hidden within literature. One lesson that stuck with Olivia was that there is always something new or unexpected to be uncovered in writings of the past and present.
The lessons from Ms. Jarman and all of her teachers will benefit Olivia as she moves on to college.
“Cumberland County Schools has prepared me for the future by giving me a taste of the rigorous work expected of me in college,” said Olivia. “It's also exposed me to people from different walks of life that I can learn from and grow with.”
When Olivia is not at school, she enjoys drawing, dancing, roller skating, watching wrestling and above all, spending time with Calvin’s son, her nephew.
“Making a positive impact on his life - while enjoying entertaining him in the process - is something I hold near to my heart,” Olivia said.
Throughout her life, Olivia has made an impact. When Olivia was asked to reflect on this past year, she said: “COVID has put us all through the wringer. The work was long, and the days felt short. But though tomorrow seemed uncertain, we all managed to persist. I know for me, continuing to rely on God for strength was, of course, the most significant factor. But I also know it involved the drive to finish what I started - to run the race though everything was falling around me. Being at home all these months has taught me so many things, from time management to making me-time a priority. But the highlight of them all is that perfection isn't required to feel successful, especially now. Though my heart is tired and my brain is fried, just giving my best is a little light that keeps me from the darkness. And as long as I continue that way, I am satisfied, no matter the outcome.”