Fog ominously floats off the Massasoit River, clouds surround the dorm by the same name, and it’s nearly impossible to see 20 feet in front of you. Out of nowhere, you see a brilliant yellow object on the ground heading your way. As this mysterious bright figure comes closer, you realize it’s a girl casually strolling right towards you with the biggest smile on her face. That yellow figure? The brightest pair of Crocs you may ever see.
Upon first meeting her, you may not notice her big, brown eyes, her curly blonde hair, or that she is five foot six; instead, your eyes go directly towards her statement-making footwear.
“I wear my Crocs because..,[my brother] is color blind, so yellow is the only color he can see correctly. Also, yellow is the happiest color ever, and I can’t help but be happy,” she enthusiastically explained.
Olivia Baker, more commonly known as Liv, is a presence at Springfield College to be reckoned with. Going from class to clubs to meetings, she doesn’t stop moving. Double majoring in American Studies and Elementary/Special Education is no simple task, yet she makes it look like it’s no big deal.
As well as being a friendly face on campus, Baker also has an online presence that encourages everyone who follows to smile. With posts about her passions, and a name like “LivBakerCupcakeMaker,” you can’t help but want to know more.
Ever since the middle of Baker’s freshman year at E.O.Smith High School in Storrs, Conn., she has been a prominent figure with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or IDD. Without knowing what the future held for her, she joined the Unified basketball team. From there, Baker decided to join a club that would change her life forever. This club was called Best Buddies.
Her passion for the group was clear as she explained, “Best Buddies is a club that provides one on one friendships to people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Over her four years in high school, she gave her heart and soul into the Best Buddies program, and said program gave her a lot in return. During Baker’s junior year she was named president of her Best Buddies chapter. Despite this feat being one of her biggest accomplishments, she talks about it with great humility. Baker is the type of person who is successful, but won’t boast about it.
Gianna Salce, a Communication Sciences and Disorders student at Springfield College, and a close friend of Baker’s, had nothing but praise for the work that her friend has done.
“Liv is such an inspiration to me and I’ve only known her for a few months. She is always so positive and outgoing, and she never wants to give up. She always strives forward to be her best.”
If you ask Baker what her favorite part of Best Buddies was, she would automatically respond with one word: Tim.
Her best friend from high school was her buddy, Tim Caouette. Every single day Baker and Caouette would eat lunch together, spend time after school with each other, and overall just be best friends. It didn’t matter to her that he was slightly different from everyone else.
“This is my best friend Olivia Baker!” Caouette exclaimed.
After becoming the accomplished president of her chapter of Best Buddies, Baker had the realization that she could pursue this passion as a potential career. Now, with a concentration in American studies, she hopes to bring her love for history, along with her love for helping people, into the classroom.
“People say ‘Oh yeah, you’re doing such a great thing, you’re amazing, you’ve got angel wings on your back because you want to be a special ed teacher’ but, I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had not met Tim,” Baker explained.
However, working with people with IDD can come with some potential drawbacks. Many people in today’s society aren’t sure how to properly act around people in this community, and it can be frustrating to the ones who do.
“Whenever people [talked to them like they were babies], it just felt hopeless, like oh my God they’re never going to get it! But [it was never difficult] because of them. It was the people working with them,” Baker disclosed.
Along with Best Buddies, she was involved in an array of many different activities during her high school career. Between being the captain of the girl’s tennis team and president of her class, she still made time to maintain her grades and make the high honor roll every semester. She was also the president of the Leo club, which did community service projects ranging from helping the elderly to being a mentor in the Special Olympics.
In college, Baker is continuing her passion for Best Buddies, and hopefully one day will become the president of the Springfield chapter. She is also highly anticipating all the work she will do with the Special Olympics in the spring.
At Springfield College, she is involved with the Partners program too, which allows college students to encourage elementary schoolers continue with their educations. Also, she is a B.L.A.S.T mentor for grade school kids that need extra help with tutoring. Needless to say, Liv Baker seeks to serve humanity, no matter the challenges she must overcome.
Freshmen student at Springfield College, Jenny Brown, loves to work with Baker, and could not stop praising her co-worker.
“I work with Liv in Best Buddies and Partners..and she always makes time [for others]. I honestly have no clue how she does it all.”
Being a role model in the intellectual and developmental disabled community means the world to her. “I’m sure being their friend was great for them and all but, I think they had more of an effect on me then I did on them.”