For four decades, high school students have traveled from around the world to Providence, Rhode Island to attend Brown University’s summer Leadership Institute, one of its distinctive pre-college programs.

This past summer, junior Ava Labossiere was one of them, and the only one from Oregon. The roughly 250 peers in her program had traveled from around the world, including Egypt, India, France, Nigeria, Haiti and more.

Ava selected the Art & Activism track at Brown’s summer Leadership Institute which helps students cultivate knowledge, skills and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. She worked with and learned from Prof. Adelaida Tamayo, whose field of study is visual anthropology.

“I learned how to connect with people on a deeper level, to listen and translate people’s experiences into social impact. I learned the finer skills of presenting with confidence,” shared Ava about her summer at Brown, “and how fortunate I am to be surrounded by amazing leaders every day here at St. Mary’s.”

Another benefit of the program was gaining confidence in the college experience – from living in the dorms with a roommate to engaging with professors and connecting with Brown’s Black Student Union.

The second of four children in her family, Ava realized another unanticipated benefit of the program: connecting to her birthplace of Rhode Island, where she lived until she was one year old. Then, she moved to the Portland area where she attended the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy (ACMA) in Beaverton. Since seventh grade – prior to the pandemic – she took an interest in health equity, specifically epidemiology.

Ava's advice to students seeking out summer experiences: "Put yourself out there!"