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Penn State Freshman Becomes First American to Win International Children’s Peace Prize

A Penn State freshman and Philadelphia native today became the first American to win the International Children’s Peace Prize for her charity work. 

Neha Gupta, a freshman in the Schreyer Honors College, was presented with the award today in the Netherlands. Gupta was awarded for her work in raising money for the world’s underprivileged children through Empower Orphans, a charity that she founded after an inspiring visit to India with her grandparents when she was only 9 years old. The organization’s goal is to help orphans and other abandoned children, specifically in India and the United States. The project has grown into a charity that has raised more than $1 million and helps more than 25,000 children. 

“Neha’s leadership, vision and work ethic have helped countless orphaned, abandoned and impoverished children, and most remarkably she was just a child herself when she began this work,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in the press release. “We’re very proud that she has been recognized with the 2014 International Peace Prize, and hope that this visibility with inspire others to also pursue worthy endeavors to benefit humankind.”

Some of the projects that Gupta’s foundation helped create include:

In Education:

  • Five libraries with 15,500 books
  • Four computer labs
  • One science center with microscopes
  • Thirty sewing machines (for siblings of older students)
  • Sponsored the complete education of 100 underprivileged children

In Healthcare:

  • Donated more than 150 van loads of home furnishings
  • Provided 5,000 diapers to the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank
  • Installed a water well and water purification system in a village in India
  • Conducted a four-day Eye and Dental Camp for 360 children, where 50 children were provided extra eye care and 103 extra dental care
  • Sponsored surgeries of polio victims
  • Provided numerous clothes, food, school books, and footwear to orphaned children

The majority of the charity’s funds come from making and selling wine charms at community events, and to friends and family. There have also been several corporate sponsors giving generous donations. To help out the cause yourself, visit the website’s donation page. Future projects that the organization is looking toward include micro-financing, solar projects, and vocational training centers.

Starting in 2005, the Peace Prize is annually given to “a child anywhere in the world for his or her dedication for children’s rights.” It’s the same award that was given to Malala Yousafzai (whose father is speaking at Penn State tonight) last year for her efforts in women’s rights to education. Malala then went on to win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Though this award is the most prestigious, Gupta is no stranger to them. Her laundry list of accolades includes: 

  • 2011 World of Children Award
  • National Winner of Prudential Spirit of Community Award
  • USA Weekend Magazine’s 2011 Make a Difference Day Award
  • Gold Level of Congress Award
  • Highest level of Presidential Volunteer Service Award by volunteering more than 4,000 hours
  • 2012 NHL and Free the Children All-Star World Changer 76ers Hometown Hero Award
  • National Winner of the Build a Bear Huggable Heroes Award
  • National Winner of Kolhs Kids Who Care Scholarship
  • National Winner of the Caring Awards and inducted into the Caring Hall of Fame
  • National Winner of the Nestle Very Best in Youth Award
  • Finalist or Philadelphia Inquirer Citizen of the Year in 2008 and 2009
  • Panel Member and Speaker for the United Nations Youth Celebrations

ABC News recently profiled Gupta, as you can see below:

Congratulations Neha, it’s people like you who make Penn State proud!

About the Author

Brandilyn Heckman

is a junior majoring in Secondary Education (English). Though she commutes to class from her home in Penns Valley, she refuses to be called a 'townie.' Along with Onward State, she currently interns with the Centre Daily Times. In her spare time, she is unafraid to show her love for Penn State, Landon Donovan, and Captain America. You can follow her on twitter at @Brandilynh or contact her via email with [email protected]


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