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A PIONEER FOR AFGHAN SCHOOLS

Nardin senior Clothilde Dedecker, 17, has won a $5,000 Global Action Award for spearheading the Western New York Girls Coalition's efforts to raise money to build girls' schools in Afghanistan.

The award is from NetAid, a nonprofit organization that created the awards this year to honor young people age 14 to 18 "who are taking bold, innovative actions to fight global poverty," according to Helen Thompson of NetAid.

The coalition of girls schools (Mount Mercy, Mount St. Mary Academy, Nardin, Buffalo Seminary and Sacred Heart Academy" so far has "raised more than $21,000," Clotilde said. About $15,000 went to build Zarghona Middle School in Kandahar. "It was completed last winter. Students are now using it," Clotilde said.

The $5,000 award can either be used by the recipient as a college scholarship or donated to a cause of choice. Clotilde said her award "will go to the coalition."

Now in the process of applying to college, she says she "definitely hopes to pursue fund-raising and raising awareness for girls in Afghanistan, likely a career in international relations."

She was a sophomore at Nardin when she heard a leader of an Afghan women's group describe the way the Taliban regime had denied girls in Afghanistan the chance to attend school. Clotilde recruited six schools for the coalition which held various fund-raisers (including a dance) along with awareness campaigns about Islam, Middle Eastern culture and tolerance.

The awards will be handed out Dec. 2 in New York City. The other winners, picked from a pool of more than 300 applicants, are:

Alex Hill, 17, of Grand Blanc, Mich., who created and ran an innovative fund- and awareness-raising plan to purchase an ambulance, ultrasound machine and other medical supplies worth more than $67,000 for a village in Uganda.

Chi Nguyen, 16, of San Ramon, Calif., who organized fund-raising events (from garage sales to full-scale concerts) to raise more than $31,000 for street children in Vietnam and to bring their inspirational stories to the San Francisco Bay area.

Maura Welch, 16, of Syracuse, who spent years raising money, traveling to poor countries, and spreading the word through conferences and literature to help child laborers around the world, particularly in Latin America.

Find more about the awards at www.globalactionawards.org.