With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.

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Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.

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Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.

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With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.

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From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

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