Robert Crenshaw wins ‘President’s Volunteer Service Award’

William Witwer

When junior Robert Crenshaw found out he had been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work in Atlanta this summer, he had a little freak out. Okay, maybe a big freak out.

“I started screaming when I realized the gravity of getting something with President Obama’s signature on it,” said Crenshaw in an e-mail.

Crenshaw, who is currently studying abroad, volunteered for AmeriCorps for six weeks this summer working as a media studies counselor for at-risk youth. He signed up for the Gulf South Youth Action Corps, which functions as a service-learning academic camp, rather than a traditional summer camp. This job allowed him a great deal of freedom in designing curricula for the kids.

“The counselors had a fair amount of flexibility as to the lessons we taught and the overall focus of our classes,” said Crenshaw. “We were given guidelines such as a camp theme (disaster preparedness) and some ideas from senior staff, but we were tasked with creating the plans and executing them in the classroom.”

Lina Menard, assistant director of the student engagement center, does not know of any other Whitman students who have won this award.

“We’re very excited that Robert has won this prestigious award,” said Menard. “Like so many other Whitman students, he cares a lot for those around him and takes opportunities to mentor and be mentored.”

Crenshaw sought out this combination of teaching and service mainly because he wants to one day be a teacher. He was very impressed with the work the campers created, including a mural, podcasts, magazine articles and documentaries.

Crenshaw said he did not participate in the program with any kind of award in mind. Instead, the award was proof of the meaning of the camp experience in itself.

“I guess the award symbolizes something precious and valuable to me more than anything else,” he said. “It symbolizes that being community-focused and wanting to build a better world one kind deed at a time still means something in this world, and that just makes me happy.”