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Volunteer of the Month – Nicole Onciulescu

Eagle News Online, by Mel Rubenstein

Belonging to organizations and clubs has associated me with a number of people who have a variety of interests and beliefs. Most are upbeat and positive, and want to make a difference in the world, our country and our community. However, in these past few months I have seen a change, and they are less positive and worried in the direction things are going. Some are even depressed.

For my next Volunteer of the Month column I thought about featuring a young, innocent student who had already been involved in selfless volunteering. What could be more uplifting than that?

I knew from previous experience that the Manlius Pebble Hill (MPH) School encourages its students to volunteer and make a difference. So, I called Jennifer Neuner, director of events and communications at MPH, to see if she would like to recommend a student who has an exemplary record of volunteering. Her answer was immediate and emphatic. It was Nicole Onciulescu, a senior at the school.

Nicole was born in Manhattan to Mike and Juliana Onciulescu. The family soon thereafter move to the Syracuse area, but not for the usual reason of pursuing a career. Nicole’s parents wanted her to grow up in a better environment, and the Syracuse area was highly recommended by a friend who lived there.

Nicole’s schooling began at the Parkview Jr. Academy, a private school. Mark Tamalea’a, the principal, provided a myriad of opportunities for volunteerism, and with the foundation already established at home, Nicole fully realized how rewarding volunteering could be.

After finishing the eighth grade at the Parkview Jr. Academy, Nicole looked for a school where she would be academically challenged. Her mother’s friend had a daughter who attended MPH in DeWitt and recommended it for Nicole. After one visit, Nicole was hooked, and just in time, because it was two weeks before classes began.

Thus began, not only a stringent academic program, but a breathtaking record of volunteering. The best way to describe this is to use, with their permission, the following article that was featured in “Reflections,” the annual alumni magazine of Manlius Pebble Hill School.

An MPH Senior Makes Time to Help Others

She’s in her third year of tutoring fifth and sixth grade students, helped create a summer camp for first through fourth graders, volunteers in the Emergency Department at a local hospital, plays piano at her church, and helps to feed the hungry. And she’s only 16 years old.

Nicole Onciulescu is a senior at MPH taking on a full course load including AP classes and serves as Vice President of Student Council. Giving back to the community, both here at MPH and within Central New York, is a way of life for Nicole, and she learned the importance of giving back at home.

As active members in their church, Nicole watched her parents, Iuliana and Mircea, selflessly invite those in need into their home for a hot meal. Years later, Nicole would find herself doing the same, volunteering with In My Father’s Kitchen passing out food. In the eighth grade, she even ran a half marathon with classmates to raise money for the organization – quite a daunting task!

At MPH, Nicole sees giving back as a way to share her talents and give back to the community as a whole. In her role as a math, Spanish, and chemistry tutor, she really enjoys sharing her knowledge and working with younger students.

When asking Nicole about her history in volunteering, the list was almost too long for her to remember. She has visited nursing homes with her elementary class, raised money to remodel a home, provided assistance to a family with a child suffering from cancer, and served breakfast at The Rescue Mission. But when I asked her about her most memorable experience, she was quick to reply. In eighth grade, her principal had an idea to start a summer camp for 5-13 year olds. They had no real funding and a short time frame to get it up and running. Nicole volunteered to be a counselor for the summer and describes her experience as “monumental.” “Spending the summer with those kids and seeing how just a few people can make such a difference was exciting. I know I made summer better for those kids,” said Nicole.

This past summer, Nicole had an exciting new opportunity at Crouse Hospital. As a volunteer in the Emergency Department and the Health Information Management Office, Nicole talked with patients and visited every room to make sure they had their needs met. She got an inside look into the day-to-day operations of a hospital – which will come in handy since she wants to pursue a career in pediatric oncology.

Now that the school year is underway, she’s focused on the college search process and her grades, but still makes time to volunteer at the Adventurer’s Program at her church with a focus on nature for young children. She’ll also be active this year with the Zonta Club, Spanish Club, Science Club, Chorus, and Dance, as well as the newly formed Refugee Outreach Club.

Nicole feels that she has been blessed with a great life and not all can be so lucky. Doing things that brings a smile to others’ faces motivates her. At MPH she wants to learn as much as she can so she is armed with the skills she needs to do more and help more people in the future.

Nicole Onciulescu enjoys dance and playing the piano, but also includes volunteering in her list of hobbies and interests. She has already applied to several pre-med schools and hopes to become a Pediatric oncologist.

This columnist hopes that reading about people like Nicole, and places like Manlius Pebble Hill School, has left you feeling a little better about things.

For information about Manlius Pebble Hill School contact Jennifer Neuner at: or call 315-446-2452 ext. 116.