Robinson High School senior Claire Crow could not believe her ears Monday when she realized she had won the Rotary Club of Waco Youth Citizenship Award.

She watched for more than half an hour as nominees from 21 other schools were recognized at the 39th Annual Youth Citizenship Awards, presented by the Rotary Club and the Tribune-Herald, but she didn’t hear her name.

“They called first runner-up, and my jaw dropped,” Crow said after the awards luncheon. “I was very surprised.”

The high school senior had listened to the impressive achievements and service activities the other 21 honorees had completed and knew she was in good company. That just added to her appreciation for the award and accompanying $4,000 scholarship.

“Service is something that I do without telling everyone that I’m doing it,” she said. “I don’t go around telling people all the things that I’m doing for others. I do it because I love to do it. To be recognized for an award that is based on the community service that I have done means a lot. It means a lot more than academic scholarships that I could have gotten.”

Crow has done quite a lot for others, completing hundreds of hours of community service in her high school career. She has packed grocery bags of food for low-income students to take home on the weekends for Pack of Hope. She has stuffed backpacks with school supplies to give to students at Mission Waco. And she has volunteered her time to the Mission Waco Christmas store, which offers reduced-price gifts for low-income families.

On spring break in 2017, Crow visited Ferrier, Haiti, with Mission Waco to train women in entrepreneurship. That experience changed her life.

“It was very eye-opening,” she said. “I’ve heard of poverty. I’ve seen poverty in Waco, but it’s a different kind of poverty in Haiti.”

Trash covered the streets and sidewalks and even the sandy shores of beaches that would be gorgeous without piles of discarded water bottles and plastic. Crow discovered a newfound appreciation for the water and sewer systems in her home country and even little things like bandages and antibacterial ointment that children in Haiti do not have.

Crow said she saw children with scrapes and bruises that would not heal because of a lack of nutrition and access to medical care. The trip and her other service activities, such as serving as a Healthy Texas Youth Ambassador through the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program, only reinforced her passion for health and her decision to pursue a career as a physician assistant.

She plans to work in a rural area to serve those who have limited access to health care. Eventually, she plans to become a state representative.

But Crow’s life has not been without challenges. In 2015, she was diagnosed with bronchitis a month after contracting it. The delayed diagnosis inhibited her lung capacity, which limited her ability to compete in mountain bike racing. She had been mountain biking since she was 8.

“I breathe at 58 percent,” she said. “Dealing with that and having to learn that I can’t compete anymore, that I have to enjoy the ride, has definitely been a challenge, but it’s opened my eyes. I realize competing wasn’t the only thing I can do.”

Crow still races, but she is not as concerned with winning anymore. She shifts that energy into coaching younger mountain bikers, an activity she plans to continue in college. Now, she has to carefully monitor her heart rate when she competes after she blacked out on one race in which she pushed herself too hard.

In the fall, Crow will attend Texas A&M University to study nutrition in the College of Agriculture. After she completes her undergraduate degree, she plans to earn her master’s degree in physician assistant studies.

In addition to Crow, four other students were also named finalists for the honor. They were Caroline Bradley of Live Oak Classical School, Bethany Adcock of McGregor High, Riley Sloan of Rapoport Academy Meyer High and Olivia Pankonien of Mart High. Each received a $2,000 scholarship.

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Brooke Crum joined the Tribune-Herald as the education reporter in January 2019. She has worked for the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, Abilene Reporter-News, Beaumont Enterprise and the Port Arthur News. Crum graduated from TCU in Fort Worth.

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