EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) — Rising Evanston Township High School sophomore Olivia Ohlson plays three sports: basketball, softball and golf.

“I can’t really pick a favorite,” Ohlson said. “I play them all because I love them all.”

For her work as a student-athlete and her efforts to support other girls of color in sports, Ohlson was awarded the 2022 Honorary ESPY for Outstanding Female Athlete.

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Ohlson isn’t just proud of her athleticism. For her, engaging with her community is also important.

“I think community service is the best way to grow and learn more about yourself,” she said. “Not only do you help others, but you learn a lot about yourself and that gives you a lot of experience.”

This year’s ESPY Awards coincide with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights legislation that prohibited gender discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.

Ohlson has worked to create opportunities for girls of color in sports. This spring, she launched Diversify Golf, a project to make golf more accessible to girls of color.

“We actually go to community centers where kids are already and meet them where they are,” Ohlson said. “So hopefully with learning the basic skills they will have the confidence to take a course one day.”

When Ohlson started golfing a few years ago, she said she didn’t see many girls of color.
“I feel like two of the biggest things that keep people of color and girls away from playing golf are, one, it’s a very expensive sport,” Ohlson said. “Secondly, that it’s not really accessible and sometimes it’s uncomfortable to be in an environment where it’s mostly men, especially white men.”

Now she is working to change that. ETHS athletic director Chris Livatino nominated Ohlson for the award.

“Rather than pointing fingers at people and saying, ‘How come this person isn’t doing it?’ or ‘How come they don’t?’ She said, ‘Hey, I can do it, make a difference,'” Livatino said. “I just respect when our kids take ownership of problem solving like that.”

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Ohlson said she didn’t expect to win and gives credit to her parents.

“They instilled in me the need and the desire to do community service and to put family and community first as well, and to do whatever you can to support others around you,” said Ohlson.

Her passion for helping others started at a young age. After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago, she started selling lemonade and baked goods, raising over $10,000 for breast cancer patients. Ohlson dreams of becoming a biomedical engineer.

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