Emma Miller wasnt about to wait to see the world.
Over the past four years, she has been to Switzerland, South Korea, Mexico, England, France and Italy, along with stops in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and Skagway, Alaska.
In April, shes off to Costa Rica and an environmental conference in California.
The surprise, for people who havent gotten past reading travel brochures, is that Emma is just 16, a junior at Puyallup High School.
Her upcoming Costa Rica trip is part of an Education First Global Citizen Scholarship awarded to 20 students 10 from Canada, 10 from the U.S. Emma had been trying to win it for three years.
The first time I was so bummed I didnt win I was determined to win it the next year, Emma said. The second year I didnt even get to the interview stage.
This year, my application morphed into a creative video. My brother, Aidan, filmed it, I directed it. I was in part of it and did the voice-over for the three-minute video. I talked about the state of the world and how we can change.
We filmed it in one day. The voice-over took one afternoon and evening. I practiced and practiced to get it into three minutes. After I submitted it, I realized how perfect a fit this trip was for me and I geared up for not getting it.
The scholarships were announced last month. Students are expected to use the trip to grow in their awareness of environmental sustainability, then return home and apply what they learned.
Packing wont be an issue. Emma has experience, as do her parents, Brent and Natalie Miller, and her brother.
I was an exchange student to Switzerland in high school, said Brent Miller, an Aylen Junior High School history teacher. In 2009, we were able to take the family to Switzerland and stay with the family Id originally stayed with. It was a great way to ease the kids into travel.
Brent Miller has led groups on Education First tours, and the family has come along when possible. What hes seen come alive in Emma delights him.
Its great to see light bulbs go on, the passion ignited, in any student but its even better when its your own child, he said. For Emma, its been like that. She wants to effect change in the world, be part of that change.
Her interest in conservation and the environment dates back to when she was a 5-year-old girl attending a Christian camp on the Key Peninsula.
It had a compost bin, and we learned how to use it, Emma said. My mom has always been into organic food. Ive tried to use resources wisely with my art, to be more green, create beautiful and harmless art. I shop at thrift stores for my clothes.
Travel has opened a window on the world opened it wider than for most students her age.
Our family has gone to La Paz, Mexico on the Baja peninsula a few times. Its a big, working city, not a tourist city, and you get a good look at the culture and daily life of people there.
There have been trips marked by luck: She was in London just before last summers Olympics, and in Paris the day the Tour de France riders finished the race.
There have been personal moments, too, such as during a trip to Italy in October.
One night in Rome, a few of us walked through a small neighborhood, found a used bookstore that had floor-to-ceiling books, old maps and postcards, she said. Some of those maps are now on the walls in my bedroom.
At 16, Emma exemplifies how people can never be too young to have their horizons expanded. Her dad encourages families to look at organizations such as Education First and Smithsonian Student Travel.
Id hope reading about Emma would inspire kids to search out travel opportunities, Brent Miller said. Emmas advice?
Always keep an eye out for scholarship opportunities from travel companies, she said. Work hard and save up if travel is important to you, that way you can do it on your own account.
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638