East Meadow has grown to become a diverse community, full of people of various backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. And one resident, Melina Ramirez, a freshman at East Meadow High School, believes that community members can do more to embrace the cultures of their friends and neighbors.
On March 28, Melina, 15, set out to accomplish that goal by hosting a Latina cultural workshop in Meadowbrook Elementary Schoolâ€™s auditorium, where more than 250 community members gathered to learn about Latin-American culture, traditions and customs.
Melina created the program for her Take Action Project, a prerequisite for her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts. Three-quarters Puerto Rican and one-quarter Russian, Melina, who speaks fluent Spanish, said she wanted to teach people that they shouldnâ€™t judge others based on their ethnicity. â€śSometimes I get judged for what my background is,â€ť she said. â€śAnd people donâ€™t know me, so they shouldnâ€™t judge me based on that. They should judge me based on who I am. So I wanted to educate people. Tell them more about who I actually am.â€ť
She hosted a similar workshop last year on a smaller scale, with about 100 participants, but expanded it significantly this year.
The workshop encompassed some 15 tables, each devoted to a specific topic, like Latin-American holidays and traditions, geography, music, dance and arts and crafts. There was also an elaborate spread of Latin-American dishes, some rather obscure â€” guava, queso blanco, empanadas and arroz con dulce â€” and some more recognizable â€” mangos and guacamole. â€śMany foods are things people eat on a regular basis, but donâ€™t know it comes from Hispanic origin,â€ť Melina said. â€śSo I want them to learn that you may think weâ€™re so different, but you eat these foods every day.â€ť
Her colleagues from Troop 1440, along with other Girl Scouts her age from different troops â€” including her sisters Sofie, 13, and Gillian, 12 â€” served as volunteers. Younger scouts and their parents were the participants.