Carnegie Mellon University

Each year, LEAP works with an amazing cohort of high school students.

LEAP students and their teacher posing together outside of The Frame Gallery during their Showcase celebration. There are balloons around the door and artwork in the windows.

LEAP student Ava standing next to a watercolor painting they created

Ava may be on the quiet side when you first meet them, but their art speaks volumes!

Their showcase project focused on the topic of gender fluidity. “Gender is such a complicated concept past simply "boy" and "girl." Not many people accept that, even in our present decade.”

LEAP student, Nyla, standing in front of a large painted she created.
Nyla is the person you want around to get stuff done! Her project management skills are only outshined by her people skills. She is truly a leader. Her showcase project was an ambitious large-scale painting. “I made this to show from a different perspective how body dysmorphia affects people.”
LEAP student Kadiatou K standing next to a poem and drawing she created

Kadiatou is not afraid to use her voice! She cares deeply about her community and uses her intelligence, creativity, and oratory skills to advocate for a more just world.

Her showcase project was a reflection of her life’s journey. “I always told myself I'm striving for happiness, but I was always happy. I wasn't ever at peace. Peace and happiness are different.”

LEAP student Jaden S standing next to a drawing with watercolor accents he created

Jaden is a calm, cool, collected guy with some serious drawing skills! 

His showcase project focused on issues of air and water pollution. “I think pollution is a real problem that affects everyone.”

LEAP student, Aaliyah, standing next to a pedestal with a small clay sculpture that she created

Aaliyah bravely uses her creativity to explore topics of great significance. She isn’t afraid to try new things or share her perspective with others.

Her showcase project focused on victim blaming. “Victim blaming is when someone has experienced abusive or harmful behavior such as sexual assault, rape, etc. and in the end they are blamed for it being their fault when it never was….My concept was to create a person, not male or female, to show that this could happen to anyone.”

LEAP student Alex standing next to a mixed media collage they created

Alex isn’t afraid to experiment with new topics and materials!

Their showcase project was an amazing self-portrait that engaged multiple aspects of their identity. “This project is my best attempt at visually explaining what goes through my head every day as a teenager. It's messy, layered and some of it won't make much sense but that is exactly what it feels like to be in my mind.”

LEAP student, Amauri, standing next to a poster he drew with a 3D printed model of a gun attached to it.

Amauri is not only a gifted artist, but a kind friend. He always finds  innovative ways to combine materials.

For his showcase project, Amauri combined 3D printing with drawing to create a poster about gun violence prevention. “4,300 deaths last year due to gun violence. Just hope that one day it will end.”
LEAP student, Annie, standing next to a poem she wrote surrounded by a collage of pictures of AAPI people protesting against Asian discrimination.

Annie has a way with words! She beautifully expresses herself through her writing.

She combined poetry and collage to create a showcase project that shines a light on the discrimination that AAPI individuals face in America. “Systematic racism is deeply embedded within American society and people continue to follow these racist ideologies. So this was my way of bringing attention to both issues.”

LEAP student, Bleu, standing next to a painting she created

It would be hard to find a more creative, engaged individual than Bleu! Her talent is matched only by her passion for equity.

Bleu’s showcase project focused on issues of culturally-sustaining aid. “I made this piece as a visual representation of how Western people will try and give out aid to marginalized groups. Most of the resources they hand out are not culturally appropriate for the child and do not fix the root of the problem.”

LEAP student, Charlie, standing next to a series of 3 collages he created

Charlie started off the LEAP program shy and reserved but ended by being a real leader who could communicate with others! Their talent for design, their respect for others, and their eagerness to learn and create were constants.

Their showcase project focused on hope. “So often we focus on the negative, feeling the weight of the world's issues and the powerlessness that comes with that. Beneath it all, I think it is important to still have that feeling of hope. Hope for things to change, hope for future generations, hope for things to be better. It is what gets us through the tough times and gets us to the other side. Hope inspires change."

LEAP student, Chase, standing next to a collage he created

Chase has grown tremendously in the LEAP program! He went from being unsure and hesitant, to confidently participating in workshops, talking with new people, and exploring new experiences.

His showcase project was his way of “encourag[ing] more people to be a part of LEAP.”

LEAP student, De'Nejah, standing next to a drawing she created and colored with markers

De’Nejah is passionate about celebrating Black excellence and joy!

She combined that passion with her talent for drawing characters in her showcase project which “shines more light on black artists.” De’Nejah’s art is just one example of the excellence she exudes daily!

LEAP student, Jada, standing next to an installation of faux flowers and vines hanging from the ceiling and surrounding a book she created

Jada brings both playfulness and focus to LEAP!

She demonstrated amazing stamina and attention to detail in her showcase project, which centered on plants native to the Pittsburgh region. “My concept was to show a concealed story about native plants as most people don't know much about them.”

LEAP student, Jailinn, standing next to a painting with a clear plexiglass cover representing a phone screen

Jailinn is creative, silly, and talented! She’s invested in her artwork and uses her creative practice to depict everything from the humorous to the serious.

For her showcase project, she focused on the impact social media has on young people. “Social media is a big place where a lot of teens tend to get self esteem issues, because no one really shows the bad side of themselves on the internet. This piece depicts how I and many others feel when they get a ‘score’ that’s considered bad.”

LEAP student, Jamie, standing next to a painting she made with gold paint and faux flowers

Jamie is a remarkable person with a sense of style and a passion for women’s rights.

She used her creativity to make a showcase project “representing the resilience and strength women have encountered in themselves as they walk through the obstacles of life….The flowers incorporated in this artwork represent the blooming of new beginnings, being able to overcome anything and everything the world has to throw.”

LEAP student, Jesse, standing next to a pedestal with a colorful clay sculpture he created

Jesse is someone who feels and thinks deeply. While he may be reserved when you first meet him, he has depths of compassion and care.

His showcase project called people to stop turning towards violence and start addressing the root causes of the world’s problems. “My concept was to show how people fight each other rather than fight the source of the problem.”

LEAP student, John, standing next to a drawing he created

John is always open to having new experiences and meeting new people. He has a keen eye for detail and exhibits patience in his artwork.

His showcase project beautifully synthesized the lessons we learned about in LEAP. “My project called The Tower of Learning shows a tall skyscraper in the middle of Pittsburgh. On the inside each floor has a different topic we learned about this year.”

LEAP student, Nate, standing next to a drawing he created

Nate’s boisterous, playful exterior is what draws people to him. His considerate, observant, empathetic heart is what makes them love him.

For Nate’s showcase project, he made a drawing about the importance of mental health. “I want to be in the psychiatric field when I’m done with school. My concept is to symbolize the different types of mental problems people deal with.”

LEAP student, Rae'Von, standing next to a trifold board with drawings and printed text that he created

Rae’Von is a strong, independent person who also cares about those around him!

He used his showcase project to educate others about a topic that is near and dear to his heart: intersectionality.  “I care about intersectionality because it is important to others and my experiences as queer POC.”

LEAP student, Taleijha, standing next to an installation she created by hanging plastic thought bubbles from the ceiling with fishing line

Taleijha is an incredibly kind-hearted and gifted person. While she typically creates masterful digital art on her iPad, she challenged herself to make something sculptural for the LEAP Showcase this year.

Her installation depicts the many questions that run through her head when she’s experiencing anxiety. “ …Although anxiety and overthinking are a common thing we all share, people feel it at different levels.”

LEAP student, Zane, standing next to an installation he created by framing a large drawing behind a small clay sculpture and a found lamp

Zane understands the power of coalition-building. He makes sure to connect with others around him so that they can create positive change together. He adds his voice to important conversations and makes space for others’ perspectives.

His showcase project depicted “harsh critics of poor infrastructure of downtown, from poor traffic mediation to highlighting the accidents regarding the transit system.…Framing the piece represents that to some the city is just a wall flower that doesn't need to be changed.”

LEAP student, Keliyah, standing next to a short essay that she wrote
Keliyah has a strong, independent voice. She is self-possessed and ready to stand up for what she believes in, while also being open to learning and growing. Keliyah’s showcase project focused on the topic of concealed stories. “ many stories from women, men and children's lives were never really told or were kept secret. It's important to remember these people and their stories.”
LEAP student, Aby, standing next to a spray painted canvas that she created
Aby’s determination and work ethic are incredible! She gives her best every time a new task is placed before her. For her showcase project, Aby chose to make a depiction of the complexity and depth of her hometown - Pittsburgh. “This city means something more to me than what others see.”
LEAP student, Maks, standing next to a projection of a digital image he created
Maks is passionate about music! For his showcase project, he decided to shine a spotlight on one of his favorite types of music to listen to: Shoegaze. “I made this because I think the real origin of the Shoegaze music genre is interesting and should be talked about.”
LEAP student, Cailah, standing next to a small painted wheel that she created

Cailah is one of the easiest people to talk to in the world! Kind, funny, smart, and interesting, Cailah is a joy to be around. Her showcase project took a look at what the American government prioritizes. “I wanted this wheel to reflect the American Economy as of last year. By that, I mean that I wanted this to show how the US government decides to focus its funds.”

LEAP student, Jaden K, standing next to a poem he wrote
Jaden is a big guy with a big heart! He is an amazing friend who can go from cracking jokes to having sincere conversations. He wrote a powerful poem for his showcase project. “This piece depicts mental health issues throughout men's lives - especially those that stem from relationships.”
LEAP student, London, standing next to a drawing she created. Next to that image is a picture of LEAP student, Jayona, spray painting.

Jayona is the most kind, compassionate, caring individual you’ll ever meet! She is always willing to reach out to others and make them feel seen and heard. 

London constantly demonstrates her creativity! Whether it’s drawing, singing, or makeup artistry, London has a passion for the creative process.

London and Jayona collaborated to create a showcase project that explores the challenges entertainers face at an early age. “We chose to explore this topic to understand the lives of child stars before and after fame.”

LEAP students and their teacher posing in front of The Frame Gallery during the 2023 Showcase celebration

LEAP students playing a hand-clapping game together


Kadiatou K. and Keliyah W. playing a handclapping game together as part of a workshop led by Dr. Ari Brazier.





Students laughing as they swivel on spun chairs in MuseumLab



Charlie R., Taleijha H., and Abby C. having fun at MuseumLab!

LEAP students recording an original song in a recording studio



Thomas S., Deja L., Malik H., and Sakai J. recording an original song in the College of Fine Arts studio, with the guidance of ChaRon Don and Riccardo Schulz.

LEAP students playing hand drums in CMU's Alumni Concert Hall



Amauri L., Malik H., Gabriel E., and Taleijha H. participating in a community drum circle, led by Clarence Grant II.

LEAP students posing in a botanical garden at Phipps Conservatory



Destiny B., Jameson S., Sarah G., and Sophie M. exploring the botanical gardens at Phipps Conservatory.

LEAP students sitting in a circle, talking and writing down ideas for a song.



2022-2023 LEAP students brainstorming and collaborating.

LEAP students applauding CMU's orchestra in the Great Hall of the College of Fine Arts



2022-2023 LEAP students applauding CMU's orchestra in the Great Hall of the College of Fine Arts during the School of Music's winter concert.

LEAP students and their teachers posing in a carved stone niche in front of the College of Fine Arts. 

LEAP student holding a cardboard VR headset up to their face



Anna P. and Chy B. exploring virtual reality and augmented reality in the Askwith Kenner Global Languages & Cultures Room.




LEAP students painting and collaging hand-bound books



Anna P., Chy B., Mia S., Haylee M., and Corinne F. creating hand-bound books out of recycled materials called cartoneras.

LEAP students learning how to use a DSLR camera with Michael Pisano



Nina M., Corinne F., and Brandon M. learning how to use a DSLR camera with Michael Pisano.

LEAP student smiling behind a microphone in the audio recording studio in CMU's College of Fine Arts



Corinne F. testing out the microphone in the College of Fine Art's recording studio.

Kyle Haden giving LEAP students a tour of CMU's Philip Chosky Theatre



2021-2022 LEAP students getting a tour of CMU's Philip Chosky Theatre from Kyle Haden.

LEAP student, Lovie, showing the handmade book she created with a picture of herself



Lovie B. showing the self-portrait she included in her handmade cartoneras book.

LEAP student, Brandon, silhouetted against a room with projections



Brandon M. exploring virtual and augmented reality in the Askwith Kenner Global Languages & Cultures Room.

LEAP students playing handheld percussion instruments in a community drum circle.



Jahlil P., Jori C., Lovie B., Ian O., and Anaysia M. playing percussion instruments in a community drum circle led by Clarence Grant II.