Olivia Goncalves has faced adversity in her life but she has never let any obstacle get in the way of pursuing her goals.
Goncalves, a Class of 2011 Winthrop High graduate, has been helped greatly along the way by her mother, Sandra, a single parent who always gave her daughter every opportunity to excel in any endeavor.
That teamwork of mother and daughter has produced a momentous achievement: Olivia Goncalves is a new member of the United States Marine Corps.
“It’s been a long road and financially difficult as a single parent, but the end result has been most rewarding,” said Sandra.
An attractive 19-year-old woman, Goncalves brings a combination of grit and glamour to the table. She is an actress who can be seen on the big screen in the current lacrosse-themed movie, “Crooked Arrows,” in which she has a role as a cocktail waitress.
Goncalves said Winthrop High guidance counselor Kathleen D’Amico first mentioned the United States Marine Corps to her for consideration as a post-graduate opportunity.
“Every time a recruiter came to our school, she would arrange a meeting,” said Goncalves. “She really helped me a lot.”
Goncalves attended one semester at Bunker Hill Community College last fall before deciding to join the Marine Corps.
“I enlisted in February  and reported to boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina,” said Goncalves. “It was 13 weeks of the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We train for several hours day and night and every day is different. There are obstacle courses, rifle range training, swimming, and physical fitness. I was in shape when I started, but the sergeants really push you to the limits and you really get to be in the best shape of your life after boot camp.”
Goncalves also had the opportunity to demonstrate her boxing skills at boot camp, having learned the craft from her uncle, Frank Pepper.
During boot camp, the 5-foot-3-inch Goncalves trained exclusively with other female candidates. “They separate the men and women,” said Goncalves. “I was in a platoon of 80 females.”
Goncalves also learned the customs and courtesies of the Marine Corps, safety procedures and the history of the Corps.
On May 11 at a ceremony at Parris Island, Goncalves received her EGA [Eagle Globe and Anchor], which is the official emblem of the United States Marine Corps. The presentation made it official: Olivia Goncalves was a full-fledged United States Marine.
Her mother, Sandra, and her best friend, Jaclyn, attended the ceremony. “I knew my mother was going, but my best friend surprised me, which was nice,” said Goncalves.
Goncalves will report for one month of combat and weapons training in North Carolina before moving on to Camp Lejeune for her MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] for a few months. She said her MOS will be in Administration.
“Then they’ll assign me a duty station where I’ll live for the remainder of my four-year contract,” said Goncalves. “I’ll be assigned a job in the Marine Corps but I can be called into a military or humanitarian situation at any time.”
After she completes her time in the Corps, Goncalves said she would like to launch her own film production company and make documentaries.
Goncalves has five years of acting experience on her resume and has appeared in three television shows and several movies in various roles. She was a contestant in a Miss Massachusetts Teen Pageant and has done modeling. She intended to view “Crooked Arrows” this week.
“I’m a Native American cocktail waitress in the movie,” said Goncalves. “We filmed the scene in Topsfield. I love being in films. It’s my passion. But when I get out of the Marine Corps and get that incredible life experience, I want to study film editing and directing because in order to be a good actress, you need to know as much as possible about your profession.”
Through all her triumphs and challenges, Goncalves says her mother has been a strong adviser, a great friend and a role model.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her,” said Goncalves. “She’s so strong. She gave me strength.”
Sandra said her daughter has always worked hard and followed the right path.
“She was always a great girl, even before she enlisted,” said Sandra. “I’ve always supported her. She always had a lot of ambition and great energy. What I like about my daughter is that when she says she is going to do something, she goes after it. And I like that about her. As a young adult, she went for what she wanted and believed in and I supported her.”
Goncalves marched in the Memorial Day Parade in Winthrop with other Marines and military personnel.
“It was a great feeling seeing all the little kids on the route and the look of respect they had on their faces,” she said.