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

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.”