Riverdale student wins international recognition
Teen joins United Nations Foundations Girl Up campaign
A Riverdale High School sophomores U.S. Congress lobbying efforts on behalf of a global poverty-fighting, nonprofit group opened a door for her to the United Nations Foundation.
Representatives from the foundations Girl Up campaign approached Sarah Gordon in March after meeting her in Washington, D.C. Gordon was in the nations capital serving as the CARE Western region youth representative during the organizations National Conference & International Womens Day Celebration.
Gordon soon was appointed as one of the United Nations Foundations 18 National Teen Advisors. The appointees spread the word about Girl Up, created to support impoverished girls education and foster leadership in American girls.
This campaign changes lives, both of the girls like myself in America who are empowered to discover their own potential and the girls around the world (who) have a right to live a happy, healthy and safe life, said Gordon, 16.
In the past few months, shes raised thousands of dollars for Cambodian girls and at her school founded a Girl Up club, the first in the state. The club, which has about 40 students, including a few boys, put together a school assembly Oct. 8 in honor of International Day of the Girl, which was observed Friday. Club members aimed to raise awareness about women in poverty, inviting three speakers to the assembly from major humanitarian groups, including CARE.
Gordon wanted a greater sense of what women in poverty overcome, so she inspired people to donate $4,000 and hand-carried the gift to Cambodia, where she stayed for a week. Her visit didnt relate to her duties with Girl Up but was part of a monthlong Southeast Asia trip she took with her family.
The dollars Gordon gave will allow three underprivileged Cambodian girls to attend high school. The money is not for tuition. Although it pays for uniforms and books, more than anything it offers each high schoolers family some financial respite. It prevents a family in a farming community from suffering financial hardship when a girl who helps at home and in the field leaves to attend classes, she said.
In a video posted on the foundations website, Gordon says: Ive always loved going to school, and it astounds me that there are millions of girls around the world who dont have that opportunity.
Gordon isnt sure what she wants to do as an adult, although shes interested in international relations and shaping public policy.
Her Riverdale English and history teacher, Laura Pridmore-Brown, said she remembers a pivotal moment in Gordons life. She was a student in Pridmore-Browns class when U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer came for a visit in early 2013. Gordon told Blumenauer she wanted to help change things, but she didnt think she could as a teen who couldnt yet vote.
He said: I disagree; you absolutely have a voice, Pridmore-Brown recalled.
Gordon agreed the moment fueled her passion for speaking out and helping others.
Pridmore-Brown also praised Gordons writing. Last year, she won the United States Institute of Peaces National Peace Essay Contest, an annual program. Gordon also is at the top of the English class Pridmore-Brown teaches through Portland State Universitys Challenge Program, which allows high schoolers to take PSU classes and earn college credit.
Words Pridmore-Brown used to describe Gordon included humble, joyful, trailblazer and brilliant.
The young woman has found what shes passionate about it and is pursuing it, Pridmore-Brown said.
Sarahs taken advantage of every opportunity thats given to her, and thats what makes her so incredibly admirable on all fronts, she said.
Gordons mother, Lora Gordon, said her daughter always has been academically focused and curious about the world. It could be because the Gordons have traveled in the developing world, encouraging Sarah and her younger sister to learn how other people live.
Yet, theres always been a yearning for leadership in her oldest daughter. As a child, Sarah Gordon had a fever dream, awakening at 2 a.m., but she wasnt fully cognizant.
Her eyes were open, and she said, Im going to be ambassador to the Netherlands, Lora Gordon said. This is a 9-year-old speaking in delirium. Of course we got a chuckle out of it, but it was also prescient.