Olivia Berit Bergstrom was murdered on February 10, 2018 and rather than letting her death define her, Olivia’s mother, Kirsten Bergstrom, and stepfather, Charley McGandy, decided to start a memorial scholarship in her honor for Holliston High School students.
Bergstrom and McGandy wanted the scholarship to be awarded to someone with a passion for something they’re interested in not just areas Olivia was interested in, said Ms. Valerie Camiel, the guidance secretary, who runs the scholarship program. “Whatever they [the applicants] do, they do it with passion.”
According to a document emailed to staff members, Olivia “cared deeply about nutrition (veganism), art and animals.” However, applicants don’t need to have the same interests as Olivia.
¨I wanted it to be based on the characteristics that we outlined in the description… Olivia was sick of writing essays by senior year,” said Bergstrom. “I wanted students to be able to be creative and present their qualifications in anyway the felt matched the mission of the scholarship.”
Although the deadline to apply for any scholarship at HHS was March 29, Ms. Camiel was hoping, and expecting, that the scholarship will continue to be awarded annually. Bergstrom confirmed that she intends on awarding the scholarship every year.
Camiel described Olivia as a “gentle soul” and a “very talented artist.” Camiel added “I have tremendous respect for the family to be able to do this. To turn something so awful for the family into something that is positive; they’re honoring Oliva.”
During her lifetime Olivia supported the Equine Rescue Network dedicated to rescuing donkeys and horses from kill pens. After her death, many people donated to Equine Rescue Network in honor of Olivia.
Bergstrom said, “being so overwhelmed with the outpouring of support I decided that we should start an annual scholarship in her honor.”
Bergstrom said in an email interview that she started the scholarship because “we would be able to celebrate her life every May by presenting a scholarship to a high school senior in her memory.”
To apply for the Oliva Berit Bergstrom Scholarship one must submit an HHS Scholarship cover letter, application, transcript, and a letter of recommendation. It is requested that all applicants submit a piece of art as well. In general the scholarship isn’t about grades, but about one’s passions.
In 2018, 25 of the 115 applicants for any HHS scholarship applied for this one.
The recipients of all scholarships were announced at Senior Awards Night, Wednesday, May 30. The recipient of this scholarship, Savannah Foley, received $1,000 towards her college tuition.
In addition to this scholarship, other projects have been started to keep Olivia’s memory alive. There was a rock painting event at Art Saves Lives this spring and ‘Olivia’s ride’ on Memorial Day (May 28) at Norfolk Hunt Club.
Donations to the scholarship can be sent to:
Olivia Berit Bergstrom Memorial Trust
447 Marshall Street
Holliston, MA 01746-1417