WEST SPRINGFIELD — Olivia Lyons knows a thing or two about courts.

A senior at West Springfield High School, Lyons, 17, is a member of the varsity volleyball and tennis teams. And newly crowned as West Side’s 2024 colleen, the student-athlete will represent her community and her Irish heritage — surrounded by a different sort of court — at the 71st Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade on March 17.

This year, all six runners-up for the crown will represent the town as members of the colleen’s court. They include Alexis Anamisis, a first-year student at Westfield State University who hopes to become a nurse practitioner; Makenna Bianton, a senior at WSHS and a member of the National Art Honor Society; Sofia Boulia, a senior at WSHS and a four-year member of the cheerleading squad; Julia Cincotta, a senior at WSHS who serves as manager for both the indoor and outdoor girls track and field teams; Lily Turmel, a student at the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business who majors in business analytics and managerial economics with a minor in sports management; and Eibhlinn White, a junior at WSHS with dual enrollment at Westfield State University.

One day shy of becoming a St. Patrick’s Day baby, Lyons, whose paternal great-grandparents came from County Mayo in Ireland, said attending the Holyoke parade with her paternal grandfather, whom she refers to as “Papa,” was a beloved family tradition.

“He always told me that I would be colleen one day,” she said. “Now that I am colleen, it feels like a completion.”

Watching the parade alongside her grandfather made such an impression on Lyons that she wrote about it in her award-winning essay. She wrote about live streaming the parade when health issues prevented her grandfather from attending, and keeping the tradition alive after his death, until the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 and 2021 events.

“I don’t think I truly understood the true meaning of tradition until they stopped,” she wrote.

As parade day nears, Lyons said she is most excited to see familiar faces from West Springfield lining the parade route excited to see her.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said.

Lyons has actively contributed to her community through impactful volunteer experiences, from organizing can and bottle drives for the high school’s Irish Club and her tennis team to fostering cultural exchange as she accompanied the mayor of County Kerry and children from Ireland on a tour of the high school.

In addition to working for King Gray Coachlines, Lyons serves as a camp counselor for the Park and Recreation Department’s Camp Centrum, and as an American Red Cross-certified lifeguard.

Accepted at several colleges — she’s leaning toward Merrimack — Lyons plans on majoring in biology, and hopes to become a physician assistant.

“I do really well on adrenaline, so I thought the medical field would be a good fit for me,” she said. “Physician’s assistant was the perfect balance.”

Does Lyons have any advice for young girls — like her two younger sisters — who may want to follow in her footsteps someday?

“As long as you believe in yourself, anything is possible,” she said.

Rich J. Wirth
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