A Cumberland Valley High School grad is getting closer to her dream of someday working full-time for the Olympics or Special Olympics.
Mechanicsburg native Carolyn Phillips is spending two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, volunteering at the 2016 Olympic Games where she works in press operations.
But this isn’t Phillips’ first experience with the Olympics — last year she volunteered at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.
Since graduating from CV, Phillips has been studying political science — with a minor in nonprofit studies and history — at Pace University in New York City. She also interned with the Los Angeles bid committee for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the Special Olympics New York and Special Olympics Southern California.
For a lifelong fan of the Olympics, getting to watch the action in person has been a “fantastic opportunity,” Phillips said.
“I’ve never felt prouder to be an American,” she added.
Q. How did the opportunity to volunteer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio come about?
A. I’ve always loved the Olympics. When I was younger I played a lot of sports, but I was never good enough in any of them to make it to the Olympics. If anything, that just made me more determined to go to the Olympics someday. After the London 2012 Olympics I promised myself that I would be at the next Games, and it has been amazing to be able to accomplish that goal. In December of 2014 I submitted my application to volunteer, and then I was interviewed online with a group in 2015. In November I found out that I had been approved as a volunteer, which was so exciting. After that I began taking courses designed to prepare me for the games, and then in May, I was assigned to my current role.
Q. In what ways will you be volunteering at the games?
A. I am working in Press Operations at the Main Press Center’s Help Desk. We hand out press kits to journalists and photographers, and we help them with any questions or problems they have.
Q. So far, how has the experience been? Has it lived up to your expectations?
A. I love being able to watch the Olympics in person, and I love meeting people from all over the world. Everyone is so friendly here, even if you don’t speak the same language. It’s really fun because I’m the only U.S. volunteer working in my area, so now I have friends from all over the world. I am really enjoying volunteering and I also love being a spectator at events. On Wednesday night I watched the U.S. women win the 200 freestyle relay after my volunteer supervisor gave me the ticket to go cheer on Team USA, and then I was there to hear the American National Anthem play while the American women stood on the podium. That is an experience I will never forget. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to come to the Olympics and have these experiences because this is my dream.
Q. Have you interacted with any Olympians yet?
A. I have interacted with two Olympians, but not Olympians who are competing in these Games. Last Saturday, I had brunch with Greg Louganis, his husband, and his husband’s sister on Copacabana Beach, which was an absolutely wonderful experience. On Tuesday, Nadia Comaneci came to where I work and asked me a question.
Q. Some athletes and athletic sponsors expressed some concern over the Zika Virus. Did you or your family ever worry about that?
A. I was worried about Zika before coming here, but after doing research on the Center for Disease Control’s website, I wasn’t as worried. According to their knowledge about the virus, I’m not in the population that it affects the most, and because it is winter in Brazil, there aren’t as many mosquitoes. I think I’ve seen three since arriving Aug. 2. I have been extremely careful while I’m here though, and I always put on a lot of bug spray every day.