Rabinowitz Award funds promising service programs

Andy Monserud

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Applications closed this week for the Ben Rabinowitz Campus Improvement Award, which is granted to students for use on charitable projects of their own devising. The SEC, which collects applications for submission to the Deans’ Council, reported the submission of five applications before the deadline at 4:00 p.m. on March 2 –– a high over the past four years.

The Rabinowitz Award is a 2,500 dollar grant given to students for use on projects that, in the words of the Whitman website, “promote compassion in medicine or politics and enrich the campus community.”  While named for the philanthropist whose endowment funds it, the award was established to honor former Whitman President Tom Cronin.

“When [Cronin] was president, he was very concerned with helping Whitman students understand leadership and how they think about intentionally striving for positions of leadership and challenge,” said Associate Dean for Student Engagement Noah Leavitt.

Last year the award went to junior Sam Curtis, who filed it on behalf of the then-nascent Glean Team. The team, which collects leftover crops from farms to donate to the Blue Mountain Action Council food shelf, has used the grant money to send students to 90 gleaning events over the past two years.

Because the award also requires recipients to present the achievements of their projects within a year of receiving the award, the Glean Team is producing a documentary directed by junior Meg Logue.  The documentary is expected to be finished this week and shown before the end of the semester.

“Part of the reason [for the documentary] is to share this story with Whitman students,” said Curtis, but “another large part of it is that it can be shared with other colleges that are … surrounded by a lot of agriculture, where gleaning could be done.”

Curtis hopes that since the Glean Team’s expenses are relatively low, the Rabinowitz Award will be able to finance it for another couple of years.

“[The Rabinowitz award] was just one of the best options because it was a large sum of money –– enough money that it could sustain our club for the next several years,” said Curtis. By the end of this year we’ll have used about a fifth of it, and so now it’s sort of a contingency fund for the following years, just in case we end up spending a lot more than we thought we would have to.”

Still, the team is looking toward the future: It hopes to work with the administration to make the Glean Team a permanent fixture at Whitman, with dedicated interns and consistent funding from the college.
Both Curtis and Buddy Program founder and 2011 Rabinowitz recipient Michaela Lambert ‘14 applied for the Rabinowitz Award in part because their projects did not involve taking in any revenue. Other options for financing such projects exist at Whitman, but many ask that at least part be paid back after a given period, according to Curtis. The Rabinowitz award has no such provision. As long as a project meets its standards, the only follow-up required is the presentation on its impact.

The Buddy Program, which has since become a permanent fixture at Whitman through the SEC in the same way the Glean Team hopes to, pairs students with mentally challenged community members.  Buddies take part in activities such as bowling and going to the movies together in pursuit of building meaningful relationships.

“We work with the goal of creating one-to-one friendships that defy the norm, and are not mentorships, but are really friendships in their purest form,” said Lambert.

Like the Glean Team, the Buddy Program is not particularly conducive to fundraising, so Lambert turned to the Rabinowitz award to get it started until it received a more permanent source of funding.

“I’m just very thankful that this grant is in existence because the Buddy program would almost certainly not exist without it,” said Lambert.