North Kingstown Student Honored with State Award for Public Service
PROVIDENCE, RI -- Rob Craven of North Kingstown High School has been honored with the Secretary of State’s 2012 Civic Leadership Award, which is given to high school seniors based on their record of public service, leadership ability and academic achievement.
“My goal is to encourage young people to get involved. Their enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the civic life of their school and community are vital to the strength of our democracy. I hope their example inspires next year’s senior class," said Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, who presented Craven with the award at a State House ceremony.
Few students in the history of North Kingstown High School can say their senior project will pay dividends for decades, but Rob Craven thinks the on-campus voter registration drive he managed will do just that.
"I wanted a senior project that was going to make a permanent difference. If you raise money for a charity, it will be spent in short order. If you pick up litter, someone will throw something else in its place. But, a voter registration drive will educate my classmates about the importance of voting and will give them the opportunity to have a say in the election process for the rest of their lives," said Craven, the son of Robert and Susan Craven of Saunderstown.
The younger Craven took about a month to frame the project and then called the Secretary of State’s Office for advice and a little star power – hoping that Mollis could drop by to encourage his classmates to register.
“I was impressed by Rob’s enthusiasm and focus. He had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve and how to get there,” said Mollis, who traveled to NKHS to kick-off the initiative.
Craven promoted the drive through social media and the school’s morning announcements. He even printed t-shirts that asked his classmates in bold white lettering against black fabric “Got Votes.” The t-shirts were distributed to friends who were walking billboards for registering to vote.
When the big day arrived, Craven stood in the front of the auditorium in front of 200 juniors and seniors calmly outlining the project and introducing Mollis while student volunteers helped distribute and collect the completed voter registration forms. Dozens of his schoolmates ended up registering to vote.
Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Craven was inspired by his father’s career in public service. First, as a prosecutor in the state Attorney General’s office and later as a member of the North Kingstown Town Council in the 1990s.
"Some day, I hope to run for political office. If I am successful and win the election by less than 63 votes, I can say I started my campaign now," he said.
NKHS Principal Tom Kenworthy, who nominated Craven for the Civic Leadership Award, says the project will have long-term benefits for his students.
“I think that engaging in the democratic process is an important function for all citizens and is at the heart of what we try to instill in our students at NKHS. I thank Secretary Mollis for his time and senior Rob Craven for putting this presentation together,” said Kenworthy.
Motivating students to register to vote is not an easy task, according to Mollis, who says only 48.2 percent of eligible 18-to-24-year-old Rhode Islanders were registered to vote on Election Day 2010. Just 39.2 percent actually voted in that election.
“People who register to vote are more likely to become engaged and effective citizens of Rhode Island. Some of these youngsters will become our next generation of leaders. Now is the time to reach out to them,” said Mollis.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit www.sos.ri.gov.