“Five Questions With…” is an ongoing series in the Gaynor Gazette. This article will appear in the Winter 2019 edition.
Olivia Robinson is one of the friendly faces that Gaynor parents and students see every day at drop off and pick up, but not many people know the “real” Olivia. She has been the administrative assistant responsible for staffing the front desk of the North Building since 2015.
- Have you always worked, or wanted to work in education?
No! I went to American University in Washington, DC because I wanted to be a writer, that’s why I got into journalism. My teachers in high school saw I could write and pushed me in that direction. But when I got to college, I realized fairly quickly that writing was not the way I wanted to connect with people. I found anthropology fairly early on, and I was hooked. All it took was one class and I changed my major immediately. Before I came to Gaynor, I tried working as a paraprofessional in a public school classroom. I love working with kids, but I realized that the classroom was not the right place for me. The only people who should be in a classroom are those people for whom it is a calling. So I made the decision to transition, working with kids in a different capacity. That’s how I found Gaynor.
- With your background in anthropology, what have you noticed that is special about the culture at Gaynor?
I especially notice how the kids interact with their teachers. You can really tell that the teachers have helped unlock who they are. To see that transformation in front of your eyes is truly amazing. That has been one of my best experiences here; just seeing that the kids are now finally realizing that they are being seen and valued. They are comfortable enough to share themselves with us. Gaynor really is like a family; this is not just kids coming to a school where they are here to learn and that is it. They are really connecting with us. I’ve never seen a place where the kids are excited and running up the steps at 8:00 in the morning to go to school. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. That’s the magic that this place creates.
- What keeps you coming back to work every day?
I’m always excited to see our students come in to school each day, and to witness the transformation that they have from the beginning of the year. You can usually tell the kids new to Gaynor because they aren’t yet comfortable with who they are. By the middle of the year, you start to see them really open up and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. One student in particular stops at my desk before he goes upstairs every morning and says, “Good morning, Ms. Olivia. I hope you have a great day.” And we have an exchange and then he goes up to class. That’s what keeps me here. The students come out of their shells. They actually see us and we have that connection even if it’s only when they come in in the morning or head home at dismissal.
- What do you do when you walk out the door at the end of the workday?
Ms. [Yvette] Siegel would most likely say I do too much. And she’s right. But it is all stuff that I love. I’m training to be a certified Pilates instructor; it’s a challenge, but I’m always excited to go teach. I guess I did end up in the classroom after all, didn’t I? I’m teaching people about their bodies and how to use their bodies. That’s what I do to decompress. I also just love being with my family. They are my rock, and it’s wonderful. I love being around them and knowing they support all the other crazy stuff that I do! I’m very fortunate.
- What is your passion?
My passion is working in the non-profit sector, working with an organization called Community2Community. We’re doing our work in Haiti and working with two partner communities to help them get back on their feet and toward living a self-sufficient life. I started doing that right out of college, and we are a totally volunteer organization because we believe in the cause so much. I went to Haiti over the summer after having not been there for four years, and I regularly work on C2C events in our local community.
Community2Community, the nonprofit Olivia describes as her “passion”, was established as a non-profit service organization to give the Haitian Diaspora and those with a heart for Haiti a platform to come together and share their expertise in a variety of areas — from education to medicine and from carpentry to communications — toward C2C’s goal of establishing lasting change in Haiti, and ultimately, other communities by working with indigenous leadership on the ground. For more information, visit www.community2community.info