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Olivia beside her L3 Portfolio at Top Art Exhibition

Confident and comfortable – Olivia's creativity shines

“I believe in myself”, says Olivia Boulieris, Marsden Graduate 2020, as she takes the next major step in an exciting creative journey that might have seemed impossible a few years ago. Olivia is commencing a diploma, followed by a degree, in creativity at WelTec this year.  This is a remarkable achievement for a student who has experienced significant learning challenges and faced many barriers to achievement.


Olivia’s talent for photography was recently acknowledged with the selection of her stunning NCEA Level 3 Photography portfolio for the NZQA Top Art exhibition, currently showing at Massey University before touring the country.


Her photos explore the impact of plastic pollution on climate change, and include the recreation of natural phenomena, such as undersea mountains, using plastic. Olivia says she enjoys taking photographs of nature, creating still life images and exploring creative ways of presenting her ideas. Lockdown last year, particularly, allowed Olivia to focus on her photography.  Olivia has attended the top art exhibition a number of times in previous years and was always ‘left in awe’ at the high standard of work. To find herself now featuring in this travelling exhibition has made her feel ‘honoured and proud’.

In Year 10 Olivia joined the full time Arrowsmith Program at Marsden. Arrowsmith is a unique cognitive strengthening program dedicated to helping students struggling with learning disabilities. According to Arrowsmith teacher Lizzie Coyle, “The Arrowsmith Program had the perfect cognitive exercises for Olivia, and over time we saw her cognitive functioning go from strength to strength. It was extremely rewarding to watch Olivia’s transformation in the Arrowsmith Program over the years.” Lizzie speaks for many of Olivia’s Marsden teachers when she says “I am immensely proud of Olivia’s achievements and I know that she is ready to take on the world.”

I am immensely proud of Olivia’s achievements and I know that she is ready to take on the world.

Lizzie Coyle, Arrowsmith Teacher

Alongside the Arrowsmith Program Olivia continued with her Art, Design and Photography subjects, which she loved. She was challenged with a variety of creative topics that piqued her interest and found creative outlets for her talents.  In 2019 she created a stunning book entitled 'Wellbeing through my lens' featuring photos she had taken of objects from around the school shaped like letters from the alphabet and supported by wellbeing quotes.


The book embodies the spirit of wellbeing at Marsden, and in Olivia’s words at the time: Wellbeing is not simply something to have in my life but also a state of mind. Everyone has their own struggles and it made me realise that it is the simple things that help you get through life. If you are negative all the time you are going to get nowhere. I chose the quotes in the book to give the reader motivation and help them the way they have helped me.”


“I am so proud of all that Olivia has achieved in the past few years, not only gaining Excellence in Photography at level 2 and Level 3, Top Art selection, but also the perseverance, curiosity and focused attention that she has brought to the classroom whilst developing and creating her inspired vision. She has come a long way thanks to Arrowsmith and her own desire to learn. She is also pretty good fun to have around with a great sense of humour. I am sure that she will do well in her future studies”, said Head of Design Kaz Bartsch.


Olivia remembers her early days of Arrowsmith as “tiring and requiring a lot of concentration”, but she soon got used to it and thrived under the teaching, support and the company of the close knit team of Arrowsmith staff and students. Four years on she says “Before Arrowsmith I was often afraid of anything that challenged me, both socially and academically.  Arrowsmith helped me learn strategies and gave me confidence, I now love a challenge, and I believe in myself. Due to Arrowsmith I now have confidence communicating with people, I love setting goals and achieving them. I feel like I can organize my thoughts and articulate myself better. I feel resilient and I believe my future looks bright.” A fact demonstrated even by the articulate notes she sent through for this article.


 “Lizzie was spectacular and Olivia had an amazing group of people around her. We called them ‘Team Olivia’. This group of staff were doing more than just a job, they genuinely cared and went the extra mile for Olivia at every opportunity, which made all the difference for her.” Sonya Boulieris, parent of Marsden Old Girl and past Arrowsmith student Olivia.


Olivia also wholeheartedly endorses her support team, whom she now counts among her friends. “I felt like I had a team of genuine supporters at school, Sarah Rees-Moore, Anne Field, Mary Gavigan, Lizzie Coyle,  Louise Kleingeld, Kate Fitzgerald, Lauren Turrell and Kaz Bartsch just to name a few.  These wonderful teachers helped me through the good weeks and supported me even more so during the tough weeks. They all encouraged me to achieve my goals and happily celebrated alongside me.” Demonstrated by a full turn out to celebrate Olivia’s achievements at the Top Art Exhibition.


If you would like to follow Olivia’s creative journey on Instagram see ‘Olivia.bphotos’ or on Facebook ‘Olivia B photography’.


Olivia, you are in inspiration to us all and we wish you well on your hikoi beyond school. We hope you will come back to inspire both our creative and Arrowsmith students on their journeys!