Rwanda alumna named Rowan Swanson Fellow

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – Leslie Massicotte, a U.S. NGO worker in Rwanda, is the newest Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow, the School for International Training announced today.

Read more about Leslie’s study abroad experience and plans for her fellowship.

Leslie Massicotte Headshot

Massicotte is a 2014 graduate of Earlham College in Indiana and a 2013 alumna of the SIT Study Abroad program Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding. The Indianapolis native plans to launch a project in Kigali to better educate young people about sexual and reproductive health.

The Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship was established in 2009 by the family of SIT Study Abroad Nicaragua 2006 alumna Alice Rowan Swanson as a living tribute to her life, her desire to bridge cultures and help others, and the role that SIT Study Abroad played in her life. A 2007 graduate of Amherst College, Alice was killed while riding her bicycle to work in 2008.Leslie Massicotte in Rwanda with friends

The program awards fellowships twice annually to SIT Study Abroad and IHP alumni to return to their program country to pursue projects benefiting human rights in that region.

“This project is a wonderful example of the kind of work that the Rowan Swanson family seeks to support with this fellowship,” said SIT President Dr. Sophia Howlett. “Leslie clearly carries forward the values and spirit that shined in Alice. SIT is proud to have contributed to the education and cross-cultural experiences that motivated both of these extraordinary young women.”

Leslie Massicotte in Rwanda with a group of friendsMassicotte said her time with SIT in Rwanda was “the most stimulating academic discussion maybe of my whole college career -- all these different voices, students from different backgrounds, discussing things like international relations, politics, and social work.”

“My passion for giving back, serving others, and being abroad came together at SIT,” she said.

During her program, she conducted independent research on sexual and reproductive health. When she returned to Indiana, she became a refugee case manager and helped create a women’s health center that provides education on menstruation, reproductive anatomy, and access to contraceptives.

Massicotte returned to Rwanda last year to join MindLeaps, a nonprofit organization that supports literacy among street children and young people who have never gone to school. She decided on her project after seeing a high rate of pregnancies among young women and girls.

Through her fellowship, she plans not only to teach children, but also to train other educators to continue the work beyond the period funded by the fellowship. Massicotte said she will carefully monitor goals and results to be sure the program is effective. “The whole idea is to use the money to start the teaching, but to make the project sustainable and able to run without my help,” she said

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As part of the School for International Training, SIT Study Abroad is a fully accredited study abroad provider that works with more than 200 colleges and universities to send more than 2,000 undergraduate students on some 80 semester and summer programs in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as comparative programs in multiple locations. In these programs, students step beyond the boundaries of a traditional classroom to analyze the critical issues shaping local communities around the globe.