Brosseau, now 24, grew up in the Twelve Tribes community in Island Point, Vt., part of a network of insular religious groups that have little to do with mainstream culture. Members share possessions, and everyone works in collective enterprises; children are homeschooled, and television, secular books and entertainment, and higher education are not permitted. When Brosseau left home, she took only what she could carry in a small suitcase. This past December, she graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in hospitality management.
The [Twelve Tribes] community is a great place for some people. Obviously it was not for me, but it was a very wholesome upbringing. I was homeschooled, and there was a family organic café that I grew up working in, so I learned a lot of cooking and baking. My dad also helped start a chain of retail stores. As a young teenager, I helped out running those stores.
Not everyone who grows up [in the community] has the opportunity to see anything outside. I started realizing that maybe [the outside world] was not as bad as they all told us in the community, that not everyone was evil and going to hell. When I started talking to people outside the community and building relationships, I think that is what really got me interested in getting out and seeing what else was out there. I knew that I did not want to live in the community, but I had no idea what I was going to be able to do.
[Leaving the community] was definitely an immense struggle. Having absolutely no idea how to file taxes or apply for financial aid or fill out paperwork or how to manage funds – that was probably my biggest challenge. I think that what really kept me going was knowing that at the end of the day I was happier, even though it was difficult, than I had been when I was with my family.
I have met a lot of people who have been mentors to me even though they are not blood related.
I am naturally an outgoing person, but coming from such a sheltered environment, it was difficult for me to integrate myself into the college atmosphere. I learned a lot by just figuring it out, and that is going to help me along the way – being able to relate to people, even though I come from a very different background from most. And all through college, I have had up to four jobs at one time, along with being a full-time student. So I think that the work ethic that I was taught growing up really helped me – the hospitality industry is something that is not a typical nine-to-five job necessarily.
For now, I would love to be in convention sales management or conference services coordinating. Education is very important to me, and long-term I would like to go to law school to study hospitality law.
My goal is to at some point be successful enough to fund a nonprofit organization to help people that went through the same thing as I did – some sort of support group and a place where they can get advice about things that took me twice as long to learn on my own.