Arnold teen wins national volunteerism award

Cool Kid Lena Goldstein WLena Goldstein, 17, spent last year taking the vital signs of children in Vietnam and translating for doctors in Ecuador and Peru. Since her return to the states, the Arnold resident has continued to raise funds and awareness for the needs the people in the countries she visited.

As a result, Lena won the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which recognizes one high school and one middle school student from each state who has performed outstanding acts of volunteerism.

Lena’s parents, Andrew and Gail Goldstein, are both physicians and the family, including sisters Mimi, 16, and Julia, 10, took a yearlong sabbatical to travel the world and offer medical care to the underprivileged. They spent six months in remote parts of South America and four months in Southeast Asia.

“We did a variety of work, from providing cervical cancer screenings in remote villages in Peru to working with orphanages and schools in Vietnam to provide mobile health clinics,” Lena says.

In Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Lena prepared patients to see doctors and nurses and taught children about basic hygiene and health care as well as helping to take vital signs. Lena, who is fluent in Spanish, translated for doctors and nurses during the family’s time in Ecuador and Peru.

“The translating work was the most challenging and most rewarding during my experience because it gave me an insight into the lives of the patients and the cultural struggles they face,” she says. “When you look at the history of a patient and things like diet, exercise, way of life and access to things like clean water — it gave me an insight into the underlying contributors of a patient’s health.”

Lena, who attends McDonogh School in Owings Mills, maintained her studies while away through online AP course work and independent studies.

Upon returning to school this past fall, Lena wasted no time establishing a nonprofit chapter at her school to provide ongoing assistance to the organizations she worked with abroad.

Co Kid Lena 2 W“Lena has brought meaningful and profound awareness to global issues as a result of her recent family experience abroad,” says Merritt Livermore, head of the upper school at McDonogh.

She created a high school chapter of the Timmy Global Health program, a non-profit organization that provides health care for people in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador. She also organized fundraisers and dental hygiene drives so they can send supplies to the people in the regions where she served last year, Livermore explains. Lena is also a member of the school’s swim team, concert choir and a capella group. She has a rigorous academic schedule that includes courses like honors neuroscience.

Lena credits her parents with instilling strong virtues of philanthropy, and she hopes to someday pursue a career in public health or nonprofit work.

She will received a silver madalion for the award April 21 at school and will travel to Washington, D.C., in May to take part in four days of volunteering initiatives with other winners from across the country. She plans to donate her $1,000 prize to one of the nonprofits that she supports.

“I feel honored about this award, and it’s great to recognize community service work, but it’s just a small part of the work that has to be done,” she says. “I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

By Katie Riley