Lauren Keller, a junior at Palmer Trinity, cares about children. A couple of years ago, she conducted a shoe drive for children in Tanzania. Keller became interested in helping the children in Tanzania because her cousin volunteered at a school there.
“We collected 800 pairs of shoes,” she says. “There aren’t 800 students in the school. So we gave them out to the village of Arusha.”
Getting the shoes to Africa would be a problem for most people, but Keller has good connections. Her mom works in aircraft sales and works in Africa and the Caribbean. Keller’s summer plans called for her to visit Africa, with stops in Kenya and Tanzania. “We’ll be going to the school and passing out some of the shoes that are left over,” she says.
“We already sent over three shipments but had some more. I’m very excited about that.” Keller conducted a drive for athletic clothing for kids to have something for the kids to play in after school. “They really love soccer over there,” she says.
“They needed proper equipment. There were five big boxes of clothes; mostly soccer uniforms.”
She also sold friendship bracelets and raised $400 for a chalk board and other school supplies.
Along with aircraft sales, Keller’s mom sells golf carts and other recreational equipment to clients in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Keller says her mom and uncle visited a couple of schools and noticed that the libraries were small. So the family collected approximately 1,000 books to donate to the schools. The books were collected through Palmer and St. Thomas Episcopal Elementary School, where Keller’s siblings attended. Keller says they shipped the books to a library in Jamaica and schools in the Turks and Caicos.
“They were mostly picture books,” she says. “We had a lot of Dr. Seuss and that kind of stuff.”
At Palmer this year, Keller will be involved in the Academy Of Agents of Change. The class is designed to help students develop leadership skills and help the community. One of the requirements is to develop an initiative. Keller says she’s considering something related to photojournalism and kids. She envisions possibly talking to students who attend Breakthrough Mami, teach them photography and take them to the Everglades to shoot pictures.
“Photography and learning are my hobbies, and traveling,” she says.
Next April, she will present the concept to a panel of investors with hopes of gaining funding for her project.
She is interested in the environment and is an officer in Palmer’s Eco Club. The club has been in a partnership with an alum who is doing a water filtration project in Vietnam. The club has other eco projects going, including a water-testing program and has participated in beach clean-up projects. She says they worked on changing the packaging of the cafeteria take-out products, changing it from plastic to something more eco friendly.
“I’m also interested in gender equality. I’m taking a women’s study course,” she says. “Women’s gender studies is important to me. I’m thinking of running for the Women’s Fund Junior Board.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld