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ava swiss agt, ava swiss singing

A beautiful tribute to those taken too soon.

Sometimes the best part about watching “America’s Got Talent” isn’t seeing extraordinary performances—it’s witnessing extraordinary courage.

Eighteen-year-old Ava Swiss displayed both talent and courage with her breathtaking rendition of “Remember” by Lauren Daigle. Swiss’ vocal chops and stage presence were certainly enough to make a lasting impression. But the reason behind her song choice made it all the more impactful.

“I chose this song because back on November 30, my brother and I were a part of the Oxford school shooting,” Swiss told judge Simon Cowell. “We lost four of our students, and seven others were injured, one of which was a teacher.”

In an exclusive interview with People, Swiss shared that she had been close friends with 17-year-old Justin Shilling, one of the four students killed. The trauma of such loss and surviving a harrowing (though sadly, not unimaginable) experience made the thought of going back to school seem impossible.

“It’s been hard. I remember my brother and I, we were talking to each other, and we said, ‘There’s no way we’re ever stepping foot back in the school,’” she told the judges.

The high school senior’s audition had been filmed prior to the recent series of public shootings across America. It’s heartbreaking that these tragedies have become so common, no question.

But as Swiss demonstrates, resilience can be immensely healing. Swiss added that she and her brother had been back at school for about two months … all before singing so powerfully she was met with a standing ovation.

Mandel told her. “The fact that you can break through that, and shine the way you did today, is so inspirational for every human being.”

This was, of course, before receiving a unanimous “yes” to move onto the next round of the competition.

If the resounding praise from all four judges wasn’t enough, fellow students of Oxford High sent a flood of loving comments to the video posted on YouTube as well. One student wrote:

“Hi another student from Oxford high school, this performance will stay on repeat in my head for years to come. It was extraordinary and so beautiful it gave me chills down to the bone. This was something I didn’t know I needed, it made me cry a lot but also gave me a lot of strength. I’m so proud of our community and of Ava for sharing her voice with us and the world and making our healing process a little less rough. Stay strong Oxford.”

It’s not easy to get up on stage and bare your soul, especially after trauma. Swiss’ performance was a big win before she hit a single note.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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