N.J. Student, 18, Who Died in Crash Was Meeting Parents for 'Celebratory Lunch' After Getting Degree

High school senior Lauren Hewski died shortly after receiving an associate's degree from Brookdale Community College, where she was also taking classes

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Go Fund Me

A New Jersey community is mourning the death of a young student with dreams of making a "difference."

Lauren Hewski, 18, was killed in a car crash on Thursday afternoon while driving to meet her parents for a graduation celebration, NBC New York reported. Despite being a senior in high school, Hewski had earned an associate's degree from Brookdale Community College as part of her high school's early college academy program.

The crash took place "an hour" after she earned her degree while she was on the way to a "celebratory lunch" with her parents, according to a GoFundMe.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office confirmed in a statement to PEOPLE that police responded to a report of a collision alongside a road in Colts Neck shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Upon their arrival police found a "17-year-old male driver of an overturned Jeep Cherokee, as well as a passenger, an 18-year-old female," per the statement.

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The female passenger was pronounced dead at the scene, while the driver, identified as Hewski's boyfriend by NBC New York, was transported to a local hospital to be treated for his injuries, the statement said.

The circumstances behind the crash remain under investigation, the prosecutor's office said.

On Friday, St. John Vianney High School released a statement on social media confirming the senior's death.

"The Saint John Vianney High School community has suffered a great loss," the post read. "On Thursday, May 11, 2023, Lauren Hewski, a gifted student and athlete in our Senior Class, passed away from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident."

"We ask for prayers and privacy for the family at this time. We also ask for prayers for our school community," the school added of the student, who was set to graduate in June.

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In a statement shared with the Asbury Park Press, Brookdale Community College's president David M. Stout described Hewski as "an incredibly intelligent and talented young woman."

"We had just celebrated her success as one of our youngest college graduates at Brookdale's morning Commencement Ceremony," he told the outlet. "Our hearts are broken at the loss of this precious young life — a life so filled with promise and possibilities."

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The Hewski family will be creating a foundation in her name called Lauren's Light, which will "keep Lauren's light shining bright and allow other women to follow in her footsteps," according to the GoFundMe page

"Lauren was a bright light, a passionate advocate, a fierce competitor, and a kind and genuine friend with a wicked sense of humor," read a message on the page.

The student "was getting ready to start a new chapter in life: she planned to attend Syracuse University to study political science and public policy at the renowned Maxwell School," the organizer wrote.

"Lauren wasn't foolish enough to think she could change the world, but she certainly wanted to make a difference," the message continued. "Lauren's story does not end here."

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