WMS alum Ava Gulino doesn't shy away from a challenge - even if it's the colder climate she now inhabits as a sophomore at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
"Living in Maine has been very positive," she said. "A lot of people comment about how freezing it gets in winter, and I always say, 'I don't know when else I would live in Maine.' I've learned a lot in my time here."
Ava has also learned plenty since her time at WMS. After graduating in 2010, Ava attended Talley Middle School, where she enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme - a rigorous, five-year academic program that encourages students to make connections between their studies and the real world and to become critical thinkers .
"I think the IB program prepared me a lot for college," she said. "It was a bit of culture shock going into Talley Middle - it was much bigger. But the experience also gave me more of an appreciation of Montessori."
She went on to attend Mount Pleasant High School, where she earned her IB diploma in 2016 through the IB Diploma Programme - a continuation of the Middle Years Programme.
While she was pursuing the IB program in high school, Ava was also working toward earning her Girl Scout Gold Award - the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. Her Gold Award project served Family Promise of New Castle County, a nonprofit that supports homeless families and helps them find permanent housing. Ava was instrumental in creating a system to better organize the glut of household items in the Family Promise attic - a space where families can find items like silverware, bedding, baby toys, lamps and more for their new homes. She also organized a bedding drive to collect blankets, comforters and sheets - the items in highest demand for families once they secure permanent housing.
Ava graduated from high school in 2016 as a National Honor Society member. Since she had yet to decide on a career path to pursue, Ava embraced Bates College's liberal arts focus and its long history of inclusiveness - founded by abolitionists in 1855, Bates was the first co-ed college in New England. "Another reason Bates appealed to me is you have time to declare your major - you cannot declare your major until the end of sophomore year," she said. "Liberal arts has been a good way to dip my toe into a lot of different subjects."
Outside the classroom, Ava is also exploring a few different areas of interest. As a freshman, she linked up with the Bates radio station and started her own radio show. "Freshman don't get the best time slots, but I convinced a girl in my hall that we should do a show together," she said. "We hosted a show from 6 to 8 a.m. every Wednesday."
Ava has since joined the radio station board and works on special projects like organizing the station welcome party and testing new recording equipment. Her current radio show time slot has improved since freshman year - she now co-hosts a show called Oh hi, Mark, playing folk, indie and alternative music from 10 p.m. to midnight every Wednesday.
Reflecting on her years since WMS, Ava knows her Montessori experience has influenced many choices she's made. She still clings to the early love of learning WMS instilled in her as a preschooler and elementary student.
"Montessori has definitely fostered such an appreciation for learning and wanting to learn more," she said. "Montessori allows you to be curious and interested in different things and ask questions."
As a college student, Ava's love of learning continues. "I find myself in class really excited to learn," she said.