Karoline Surdyk has been awarded the $1,000 Thumbs Up Guys Scholarship from Miller, Dawson, Sigal, and Ward. The scholarship was designed to highlight and reward South Carolina students who have gone above and beyond to serve their communities.
Surdyk, an incoming freshman at Furman University, is one of three winners who all showed exceptional dedication to helping others. At the age of 14, she began volunteering with the organization Lowcountry Orphan Relief (LOR), which distributes donations to children in need.
“LOR supports local abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes often with only the clothes on their backs,” she wrote in her winning essay.
The cause struck a nerve in Surdyk, who grew up in a military family and has experienced being “the new kid” in class many times. Unlike those children supported by LOR, she was always able to show up with new materials, completely prepared for the school year.
“Not being prepared could have negative long-term effects on [those children’s] education and their future,” Surdyk realized. Something had to be done.
Not content to sit on the sidelines, Karoline Surdyk started her own project during her sophomore year of high school: School Supplies for Lowcountry Orphan Relief. Her goal was to provide kids in need with new backpacks and school supplies, since most donations are typically used materials and these items needed to be brand new.
Getting the Word Out
Volunteering and organizing requires a lot of adaptation, which is something Surdyk soon realized. Her efforts to raise funds and receive donations included:
- Starting a GoFundMe campaign
- Doing door-to-door canvassing for monetary donations
- Launching Instagram donation days
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in full force, disrupting many avenues of donation-gathering. Instead of going door-to-door, hosting in-person fundraisers, or spamming her contacts with social media posts, Surdyk sold commissioned artwork to fund her program.
To date, Karoline Surdyk is directly responsible for 371 backpacks given to children in need, filled with school supplies worth more than $5,300. Looking back in an interview, she remarked on the lesson she learned. “These obstacles that I have to overcome can go on to help others,” she said. “And that’s why it’s so important to overcome them.”
Surdyk’s Future Studies
At Furman University, Karoline Surdyk plans to major in either Biology or Health Sciences. She already has a spot lined up after that at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine, given she meets the GPA and additional admissions requirements.
Read Karoline Surdyk’s winning essay here.