Ambassador of the Year 2016

Recipient Michelle Zhang plans to use her award to travel to Guatemala this summer with GLA

Global Leadership Adventures is excited to announce our selection of Michelle Zhang as our 2016 Ambassador of the Year.

During her two years as a Global Ambassador for GLA, Michelle has shared her stories of transformation and overseas service to many prospective students --- at live events and through social media.

In 2014, Michelle volunteered abroad on GLA's Tanzania: Heart and Soul of Africa program, and her experiences there not only encouraged her to apply to be an ambassador; it changed her ambitions for the future:

"Going on the trip made me see that you can solve these problems in a realistic manner. It made me want to go into nonprofit work.”

Michelle on safari during her GLA Tanzania excursion

Part of being an ambassador is meeting other high school students who share the same passions for volunteering and travel, and Michelle says her communication skills improved from having to speak to those passions, and how they tie into the GLA experience.

What really helped her connect to her role as an ambassador - and connect to others who were interested in GLA - was the artwork challenge. This activity challenges GLA's ambassadors to submit a piece of art or create a new one that embodies the GLA experience. This piqued Michelle's interest. She knows that a painting can draw attention; that it can make people feel the experience.

Michelle's painting of Kilimanjaro from her GLA Tanzania trip won the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Gold Key

By sharing her artwork on social media, she was able to connect with a larger audience, and get people to conceive of international travel and service in a unique way.

One of the perks of being GLA's Ambassador of the Year is what Michelle receives as part of the award: an all-expenses paid trip one of our programs. Using her award, Michelle has chosen to volunteer for two weeks in Central America on the Guatemala: Children of the Maya™ program. This will give her the opportunity to return to doing something that she loves: working with - and inspiring - children.

GLA congratulates Michelle on her incredible contributions to the Ambassador Program and to communities she's served while abroad, and we wish her a memorable and life-changing journey to Guatemala this summer.

Before we part, we'll leave these words from Michelle as something to remember, and to inspire others:

"My philosophy in life is to keep your heart and mind open so you can get the most out of every experience you have."