NEWBURYPORT — Lauren Sundstrom, an 18-year-old senior who raises funds to expand educational opportunities for children in Ghana, has been named one of two winners of the statewide Prudential Spirit of Community Awards that honors students who make a difference.
Sundstrom has raised close to $40,000 to support programs in Accra, Ghana, and has developed a nonprofit organization, Clothes for Hope Inc., to carry out its mission.
Last year she organized the donation of lightly used clothes. She took in close to $23,000 on that event and raised another $17,000 through donations and pledges, she said.
“I am honored and so excited to received this incredible award,” said Sundstrom yesterday. “It couldn’t have happened without the support of the community, and I want to thank everyone who has helped our cause.”
She said that this year’s Clothes for Hope sale is scheduled for March 23 and 24 at 114 Bridge Road in Salisbury, the future office space for Enpro Services, Inc.
Sundstrom was named the top senior volunteer in the state; a junior high school student from Salem was named in a younger division.
Sundstrom will receive a $1,000 scholarship and a free trip to Washington, D.C., in May. If she is named a national winner, she could receive $10,000 more in scholarship money. She said she plans to attend Bowdoin College in the fall.
Lauren traveled to Ghana in June 2011 to volunteer with orphaned and underprivileged children. She worked with students at public schools in the Woe-Keta School District, and at the New Seed International Orphanage, teaching a variety of subjects in kindergarten, second-, fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms.
The affable senior said she saw the need for more books, desks and school uniforms. With the support of her parents, Hans and Lisa Sundstrom, she made plans to raise money to provide such aid.
Upon returning home, Lauren established Clothes for Hope, Inc., the nonprofit organization designed to provide educational assistance and materials to children and families in need both locally and globally.
She has returned to Ghana and was pleased with what she saw.
“It was an incredible feeling to see what our fundraising activity had provided,” she said. “The money helped buy books, desks, computers and other educational tools. Funds helped at the orphanage, too.”
Organization officials said that her donation helped close to 200 students.
Now president and CEO of Clothes for Hope, Sundstrom says she is committed to continuing the effort to raise money to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
“This has been a great fundraising project,” she said. “I hope that we can get continued support when we have our event March 23 and 24.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial, Inc., is considered the nation’s largest youth-recognition program based solely on volunteer service.
It is administered in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.