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‘I feel like I’ve made an actual impact on the world’

Photo of Christie Civetta

CSSH student Christie Civetta, a fifth-year human services major, will address some 20,000 people at TD Garden when she delivers the under­grad­uate stu­dent speaker address at North­eastern University’s 113th Com­mence­ment on May 8.


Christie Civetta, SSH’15, lost her voice over the weekend, a result of cheering bois­ter­ously for her North­eastern Pow­er­lifting team­mates as they com­peted at the national cham­pi­onships in Atlanta.

Luckily Civetta has a few weeks to get it back before she addresses some 20,000 people at TD Garden. Civetta, a fifth-​​year human ser­vices major, will deliver the under­grad­uate stu­dent speaker address at North­eastern University’s 113th Com­mence­ment on May 8.

It was an incred­ible feeling to know that other people thought I would be great at this,” Civetta said of being selected for this honor. “I’m pretty excited.”

Civetta has known she wanted to work in human ser­vices to help those in need ever since she was 15 years old. It was then when her step­fa­ther took his own life, an expe­ri­ence that Civetta said has inspired her to help pre­vent other fam­i­lies from going through sim­ilar tragedies.

The thing that stops people from get­ting help for sui­cidal thoughts is the stigma around sui­cide,” Civetta explained. “At the end of the day, the last thing you have against sui­cide is hope. And you can’t give them hope unless they come for­ward and ask for it.”

While studying at North­eastern, Civetta has worked all around the world helping others through a range of expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties. She worked on co-​​op in Cape Town, South Africa, con­necting with a family preser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion to help with coun­seling and drug abuse prevention.

While par­tic­i­pating in an inten­sive lan­guage pro­gram at Bei­jing Uni­ver­sity during a semester-​​long intern­ship in 2013, she iden­ti­fied a research oppor­tu­nity focusing on the sui­cidal ten­den­cies among female stu­dents there. That work, she said, has served as the basis for her senior cap­stone project.

On a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in Zambia, Civetta and two other stu­dents wrote up the cur­riculum for a new peer edu­ca­tion pro­gram for the Serenity Reduc­tion Pro­gramme Zambia, which is now being imple­ment across the entire African nation.

I feel like I’ve made an actual impact on the world, and I didn’t think that was a pos­si­bility for a col­lege stu­dent,” Civetta said. “But North­eastern pro­vided me with oppor­tu­ni­ties to make a tan­gible impact. I always left an expe­ri­en­tial learning expe­ri­ence feeling as if I had done some good.”

Civetta’s cur­rent research focuses on cre­ating a new treat­ment for vet­erans suf­fering from post-​​traumatic stress dis­order using exer­cise therapy. She’ll con­tinue that work later this year when she begins a master’s degree pro­gram at the Uni­ver­sity of Bristol in Eng­land. Her grad­uate studies, she noted, will couple her pas­sions for human ser­vices and exercise.

Civetta noted that she is thankful that her global expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties have forced her to step out of her com­fort zone, a chal­lenge that in her May 8 address she will encourage her fellow grad­u­ates to tackle after graduation.

I find that some­times when you do some­thing with reck­less abandon or when you don’t know what the out­come will be, you have the best expe­ri­ence of your life,” Civetta said. “You’ll really chal­lenge your­self and dis­cover what you are made of.”

-By Joe O’Connell

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