Teen’s volunteer work nets top award
Published: January 8, 2006 | 3221st good news item since 2003
Youth has raised funds for education, needy kids living abroad
Sondra Clark had read stories and seen documentaries about poverty in Africa’s poorest nations. She thought that had prepared her for a trip she and her parents took there five years ago.
But the sights she saw — children who had lost their parents to AIDS, kids her own age fighting with dogs for scraps of food, utter poverty — were shocking.
“It was amazing what we saw,” said Clark, 16, a student at Christ Presbyterian Academy. “The minute I got off the airplane, I had a kid about my age come up begging me for money.”
During that trip, Clark committed herself to telling other people about what she’d seen and asking for their help. Since then, she’s raised thousands of dollars and contributed many hours to further education efforts in Africa.
Her work was recognized this month when Clark received the Tennessee Titans Foundation’s Junior Community Quarterback Award.
The award honors Tennesseans between ages 13 and 21 who are active volunteers in the community. The organization awarded Christ Presbyterian Academy a $5,000 grant in Clark’s honor to fund the continuation of several efforts Clark has helped promote, including the Salama Urban Ministries and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“There are a lot of awards for athletes and people who do other things,” said Clark, who plays soccer at CPA and once played on a youth football team. “It’s so great when people honor people who do volunteer work.”
Much of Clark’s volunteer work has centered on raising funds to help promote education in developing countries. According to her award application, she has raised over$80,000 for childhood education efforts in Africa and elsewhere.
The high school sophomore has worked with Childcare International, a relief agency that focuses on the needs of young people in poverty.
More recently, she trekked to Mississippi to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. She was there when she learned she had won the award.
Clark has made a number of television and radio appearances to promote youth activism and even penned a few books, including one titled You Can Change the World! Creative Ways to Volunteer and Make a Difference.
Her book offers more than 150 ideas on volunteering, and a portion of the proceeds it generates goes to Childcare International.
She speaks to churches, service groups and schools on the importance of volunteering and also encourages people to sponsor needy children through Childcare International.
Her efforts have brought thousands of dollars in donations for the organization, as well as gifts such as toys, clothes, books, food and toiletries for needy children abroad, her award application states.
While she’ll continue to work with Childcare International and other agencies this year, Clark said she also plans to step up efforts to find new recruits to work by her side.
“My main focus now is really encouraging kids to volunteer and get involved. A lot of people are willing to work if they have the chance,” she said.
The Tennessee Titans Foundation handed out a total of $20,000 in grants through the Junior Community Quarterback Awards this year.
Nashvillian Aubree Johnson was a finalist for the award. Johnson, 18, a student at Middle Tennessee State University, helped found Teen Tutors at Homework Hotline, which provides academic assistance for students in Middle Tennessee.
The organization received a $4,000 grant from the foundation.