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Robert Crenshaw, a junior English major, has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award as a result of his work as an AmeriCorps volunteer this summer in Atlanta.

The award honors volunteers who set a standard for service, encourage a sustained commitment to civic participation, and inspire others to make service a central part of their lives.  It was established by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, created in 2003 “to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making in our communities and encourage more people to serve,” according to the council’s Web site.

GYAC members Robert Crenshaw (rear at left) and members of the Gulf South Youth Action Corps

During his six weeks in Atlanta, Crenshaw served his AmeriCorps assignment as a critical media studies counselor for the Gulf South Youth Action Corps.  He was awarded a gold pin in recognition of 500 hours of service.  His work as a counselor involved curriculum development, lesson planning and involvement in service learning activities, and he gained as much as he gave. 

“The quality of work that the campers produced, the passion and creativity I saw that fueled interactions between counselor-camper or camper-camper, and the intelligent and insightful youngsters we got to work with were refreshing and impressive sights to see.  And to think, all of this was made possible by simply working together,” said Crenshaw.

“We were part of a community, whether we liked it or not, potentially affected by the same tornado or hurricane, or benefiting from the same tax cut or transit system improvement.  I was by no means an Atlanta resident, nor did I intend to stay in Atlanta, yet I was inducted into this regional community when I heard and saw the effect of homelessness in Atlanta and as I understood the pressing need to prevent another Hurricane Katrina.”

AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects more than 70,000 Americans each year in concentrated service to meet the country’s pressing needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. Crenshaw accepted the position because he wanted to “work with at-risk student populations to foster academic, communal and personal growth.”  This year’s camp focus was disaster preparedness.  

“This experience has reaffirmed my need not only to branch out and be more receptive to different people, but to realize the potential of anyone to be great.  But by the same token, that greatness must be realized and nurtured in our next generation.”

His summer work has had a powerful impact and he brings new insights back to the Whitman campus. “As college students, we are still malleable – able to shift our paradigms, experiment, and reflect on our lives and actions – and hungry for knowledge.  With an understanding of the intimacy and necessity of community-based education, I believe strongly that we all – regardless of academic discipline or personal interest – can make our communal and personal lives more meaningful.”

Crenshaw, a Kansas City, Mo. native, is an active member of the Black Student Union, Whitman Mentor Program, Whitman Parliamentary Debate Team and the Whitman Chorale.