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White House Honors 'Champion' Highland Grad

Neeta Patel, a Blackwood resident and valedictorian of Highland Regional High School's Class of 2011, is a White House "Champion of Change."

The White House earlier this week honored 2011 Highland Regional High School graduate and Camden County 4-H participant Neeta Patel as a "Champion of Change."

President Barack Obama recognized the Princeton University freshman for her work with children in the West African nation of Ghana during the 2011-12 academic year.

Patel, of Blackwood, was accepted into Princeton on a full academic scholarship while at Highland. However, she opted to participate in Princeton’s Bridge Year Program during what would've been her first year at the Ivy League school and instead traveled to Ghana to teach math and computers to middle-school children in a rural village.

Patel was one of seven valedictorians of Highland's Class of 2011.

This past week, Obama's White House selected the 4-H program as one to highlight with its "Champions of Change" program because of the organization's longstanding legacy of making a difference through volunteerism. Six participants in Future Farmers of America were also honored.

As a participant in the Camden County 4-H program, Patel was eligible for the honor, and was one of six 4-H participants recognized by the White House on Tuesday. Obama did not attend the ceremony.

"We are proud to have Neeta represent Camden County in Washington (Tuesday),” said Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, liaison to Camden County's 4-H program. “Her commitment to helping others serves as an example to us all.”

Patel raised more than $2,000 after discovering there were no computers on which to work with the children.

Patel served 600 volunteer hours with 4-H during her high-school career. She is currently a freshman in Princeton's music program. An accomplished flutist, she recently gave her first performance at New York's famed Carnegie Hall.

You can read Patel’s blog of her experience in Ghana here.

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