WILMINGTON — Kennedy Crowder realizes she was born with opportunities and advantages that others her age may not have. So she decided to do something to help even the playing field.
Over the past few years, the Padua Academy senior has collected and donated thousands of books to area organizations, including the Sunday Breakfast Mission, the Ministry of Caring, Child Inc. and Bancroft Elementary School. Crowder has always liked how giving made her feel, but over the years she has realized that she is donating more than books.
“Now that I’m older, I understand how much literacy plays into your opportunities in life,” she said last week at Padua. “When I started thinking back more on this, I realized that not only is it that you gave them a book, you’re giving them a chance. I don’t think people realize how disadvantaged kids are when they don’t have that opportunity.”
Crowder was hit by the community-service bug after seeing her parents, Kermit and Rhonda, donating items to a family friend’s daycare in Florida. A lot of parents there, she noted, said they didn’t have a lot of books at home.
“So my sister and I donated all of our children’s books. After that, it kind of made me realize there’s schools all over Delaware and all over Pennsylvania, the kids go home and there’s nothing to read, and there’s nothing to write with,” she said.
“That creates a gap, or an extreme disadvantage, between me, who has books and literacy tools at home in abundance, and kids who don’t.”
Her sister, Kyla, graduated from Archmere Academy and is now in college. She helps out when she is able. But Crowder has kept the momentum going throughout her time at Padua, and this year organized a book drive for Mom’s House. All told, she has collected more than 700 books this academic year.
“This year, I think it’s the most I’ve ever done for one year. That’s really cool, and I’m not done for this year. I’m planning some stuff for spring break. So, this has pretty much been the best year in terms of my community service,” she said.
The process of moving books from collection to distribution involves more than putting them into boxes and driving them to their destination. The books have to be in good shape and must be separated for age-appropriateness. There are some specific restrictions; hospitals, for example, have to receive new books.
As news of Crowder’s work spread, so has her sources of books and organizations receiving them. She said she has a steady supply of books coming in, especially from family, friends, and students and faculty at Padua.
Crowder said she fell in love with Padua when she visited as a middle-schooler. She wanted a challenging education and has taken multiple advanced-placement and honors courses. She especially likes her classes that go beyond facts and figures, exploring the “hows” and “whys” of subjects.
She also treasures the sisterhood that exists at the school.
“Even though the class is challenging, the people are all so supportive. Everyone is rooting for one another. No one wants to see someone get her test back and not succeed,” she said.
She recalled times when she and her friends have shown up at a friend’s house unannounced with coffee when that person has had a bad day, or bringing a cake into school for someone who needs a boost.
“That’s one of the main reasons I really love Padua,” she said.
She has been involved in mock trial since her freshman year and is gearing up for this year’s competition season, which begins next month. She started a black students’ union last year and is helping plan for next year even though she will have graduated. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and student council, and she serves as a student ambassador for others considering Padua.
Not surprisingly, she said she loves to read, especially fantasy, science fiction, magical realism and horror. She also likes creative writing, and relaxing with her pet tortoise, Sorbet.
Crowder also is a member of Jack and Jill of America, an organization “dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty,” according to its website.
Although she is waiting for her college acceptance letters to start arriving, Crowder wants to be a lawyer. She worked last summer at a law firm, which involved a lot of writing. She is not sure what she will study as an undergraduate, although she is leaning toward English, psychology or sociology.
“I’d really like to get a chance to study human behavior, relationships, society, just to get a better understanding of the world I live in.”