May 24, 2012 in Washington Voices

Out of the crowd, Olberg blossoms

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Katie Olberg
(Full-size photo)

If anyone had told Katie Olberg, 17, that she would be tutoring a middle school student in math and English just two years after she arrived at MAP High School, she probably would have laughed out loud, except she didn’t laugh or talk much at the time.

“I had a really hard time socializing, and I don’t like large groups of people,” said Olberg.

Olberg was enrolled in a traditional school before, but the hundreds of loud, busy students milling around school hallways made her extremely anxious.

“I just didn’t want to deal with it, so I stayed away,” Olberg said. “I skipped every day. Then my counselor suggested MAP, and I was super excited because I heard there were only 30 students there.”

The Multi-Agency Adolescent Program, or MAP School, is a special program for high school students affected by mental disorders.

Olberg’s counselor at MAP, Julie Cruz, said it took a while before Olberg started talking to people around her.

Olberg remembers the intake process and how terrified she was during the interview.

“I just stared at the ground,” she said, smiling. “Today I feel a lot more comfortable and have made a few close friends.”

Olberg was born in Montana and has moved around a lot. She’s lived the past four years in Spokane, where her sister has raised her since she was 14. Olberg has a good relationship with her mom, but hasn’t seen her dad since she was 9 years old.

“When I first got here, there was just a lot of crisis management,” said Olberg, as Cruz nodded. “Being at MAP has helped me in many other areas of life.”

Olberg said she’s still a little shy, but her work study at nearby C&H Auto has been very successful.

And she loves tutoring her middle school student.

“I see her almost every day and I help her stay organized and understand things better,” Olberg said. “I also help her with math and English. I didn’t think it was possible for me to do something like that.”

Her best subject is math, and her dream is to become an aeronautics engineer.

She also she wants to travel.

“I want to go everywhere, I want to see a lot of different places,” Olberg said.

She plans to enroll at Spokane Falls Community College after graduation, and then transfer to a four-year college.

Olberg said she plays the computer game “Halo” a lot, and she also loves to bake. She is famous among friends and family for her multicolored, multilayered cakes.

“I made a cake for my sister’s baby shower. It was dark purple cake and it was blue on the outside,” said Olberg. “I also made the butterflies and daisies that were on it.”

Said Cruz: “We are really proud of Katie and the risk she’s taken to make things better for herself.”

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