Freshman empowers young girls through Straighten Your Crown

Maddy Oliva portrait
Maddy Oliva, a freshman social work major, is working toward becoming a therapist or forensic social worker. She spends much of her free time doing philanthropy work through Straighten Your Crown and Syracuse University Active Minds. (Photo by Prince Dudley, staff photographer. Courtesy of The Daily Orange.)

By Caroline Schagrin, staff writer. Courtesy of The Daily Orange.

Once a week, Maddy Oliva goes to Clary Middle School to talk about women empowerment.

Oliva, a freshman social work major, works with the Syracuse University organization Straighten Your Crown, where she acts as a mentor for elementary and middle school age girls in the city of Syracuse.

“(The school) doesn’t really have a great teaching system. A lot of time, no one is there to listen to (the girls), and hear why they’re upset,” Oliva said. “We’re there to let them vent. We try to let them do fun stuff to get their mind off whatever is going on in the school day.”

The girls often resort to fighting, so Straighten Your Crown works with them throughout the semester to help them find similarities between each other and learn ways to effectively communicate how they’re feeling. Many of them don’t have a strong support system or source of encouragement.

“One of the most rewarding parts of working with them — when asking the same girls what they want to be when they grow up, they respond, ‘I want to be a doctor.’ It’s really cute seeing the progress that they make,” Oliva said.

Oliva said she loves talking with people and making sure they have the power to speak their mind. She is hoping to become a therapist or a forensic social worker, which works with anything related to law and legal systems within social work such as deciding the rights of a child.

She explores her interest in working with individuals suffering from mental health problems through her work with SU Active Minds — a student organization devoted to raising mental health awareness among college students. Within the organization, mental health issues are discussed and its members work to end the stigmas surrounding mental illness.

They also work to encourage students to go to the counseling center if they need it.

Over the next three years, Oliva hopes to continue getting involved with the campus and city community. She joined the Alpha Xi Delta sorority this semester and is looking forward to participating in its Autism Speaks philanthropy.