WHITTIER – Only $2,000 stands between Stephanie Esserman and her dream – a dream that, unlike many teenagers, has nothing to do with a new car, fashionable clothes or an exotic vacation. Instead, has everything to do with privilege. As the 16-year-old La Serna High School junior sees it, merely being an American is a privilege that’s taken for granted, especially when compared with other countries where many children don’t have enough food to eat, a safe place to sleep or basic health care. But for $2,000, Esserman would like to make a change. She was among 26 students chosen nationwide last month to serve as youth ambassadors for HERO, Help Educate at-Risk Orphans, a program of the United Nations Association of the USA. UNA-USA is a center for innovative programs to to engage Americans in global concern. As an ambassador, Esserman will spend a month in South Africa this summer, helping build classrooms and dormitories for orphans and vulnerable children living in the HIV- and AIDS-affected communities there. She needs to raise a total of $5,000 by June 1 to get there and to pay for her work materials. But she has already raised $3,000 through fundraisers and donations from family and friends. “The opportunity to help and give back to people who don’t have a lot is something I’ve decided to do for the rest of my life,” said Esserman, who is also works as a volunteer at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital. “At La Serna, my teachers and my education are opportunities that I’ve been given,” she added. “These are privileges, and they should be recognized.” Advanced Placement English teacher Karen Lantz said when Esserman asked for a letter of recommendation for her HERO Youth Ambassador application, Lantz thought it was an ambitious task. “I knew it would be challenging,” Lantz said. “But Stephanie really had the feeling that this experience was calling to her. And she is the type of student that will make the best of every situation. She is a young woman of quality who has a lot to give.” Lantz’s AP English class has taken up a collection and is helping organize more fundraisers for Esserman, who has a little more than a week to raise the $2,000 she needs. “Right now, I’m just nervous about the money,” Esserman said. “So many people have already contributed their time and money – so if I don’t make it, it’ll be so disappointing. If she does raise the money, she’ll leave June 28 and spend a couple of days in New York before heading to South Africa. “I just want the chance to make a difference,” she said. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!