SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Every year, a wide pool of incredible, local seniors apply for the Friends of South Kingstown Parks and Recreation scholarship, but this year’s recipient had a longer and deeper resume than most, according to Recreation Commission Chair David Palazzetti.
Recent South Kingstown High School graduate Sam Craven, ’20, has been a long-time volunteer with the South Kingstown Parks and Recreation Department, according to Director of Leisure Services Terry Murphy. Craven first started donating his time and efforts to the community in seventh grade, and said he kept coming back because of all the great programs.
“He’s really done the whole circuit of community events with egg hunts, tree lightings and pumpkin festivals, and a lot of the family, free community events,” Murphy said at this month’s Recreation Commission Meeting. “We’re grateful to have had Sam’s time for the past several years.”
The Trinity College-bound graduate said it was an absolute honor to have been selected as this year’s recipient, and thanked recreation commission members for their kind words and support.
“I’ve been working with you guys since middle school,” Craven said, “and all the events I’ve done and the people I’ve worked with, it’s been a great experience.”
The people he’s met and the relationships he’s built through volunteering, even if they only last for a day, have all been meaningful, Craven said. He’s looking forward to all the new experiences that college has in store for him, and the friends he’ll meet along the way.
As an applicant, Craven, 18, also stood out for his academic and athletic achievement. The National Honors Society student has excelled in math and science courses — and even won first place at the high school’s science fair last year. He plans to major in biology this fall, and has aspirations for a career in medicine.
For the past four years, Craven has also been a standout player on the South Kingstown High School Varsity Baseball team. The star pitcher would have been a co-captain this year, had it not been for the pandemic uprooting his final season.
In recent years, Craven has also played with Rhode Island’s American Legion Baseball League, the SK Senior All-Stars League, and Rhode Island Prospects — a showcase program that helps provide exposure to college programs — just to name a few.
For the past two summers, opportunities with Rhode Island Prospect took him all over the country, from New York and Florida, to our backyard in Hartford, Connecticut.
Craven had admittedly never heard of Trinity College until he played a tournament there two summers ago, and he fell in love with the campus. He returned a few months later for a tour, and then again this past summer for another tournament, when his dreams of playing college baseball became a reality.
“The showcase baseball team I was on reached out to the head coach, and he saw me play,” Craven said. “I ended up playing really well that game, and he said that I’d make a good addition to the program.”
At the moment, Trinity College has plans to bring students back for in-person classes, according to Craven, though some courses may be a hybrid blend of classroom and online meetings. His courses will be challenging, but Craven is looking forward to it.
The soon-to-be college athlete is hopeful he’ll be back out on the pitching mound this spring, and looks forward to getting back to the game he loves.
Recreation Commission Vice Chair John Biafore said he hasn’t seen much of Craven since his days in South Kingstown Little League — where Craven got his start in t-ball at just 5 years old — but wishes him the best of luck moving forward, and hopes he’ll be back on the field soon.
Recreation Commission Secretary Joanne Blessing offered similar words of thanks and encouragement, along with Palazzetti.
“We do this every year and we always have awesome candidates, but I have to say, your resume was probably longer and deeper than a lot of the ones we’ve seen, with the various ways you’ve interacted with parks and recreation,” Palazzetti said.
“We’re a town operation, but we rely heavily on volunteers and underpaid staff – without you guys helping out, we couldn’t run nearly as many of the programs that we do,” he added. “It’s huge for the town. It’s what makes South Kingstown as awesome as it is — folks like you stepping up and giving your time to the community.”
The self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast has spent his past several summers working outdoors with Mark Hutchins Landscaping, but in his downtime, he prefers bike riding with friends or spending time at the beach.
If it’s nice out, you won’t catch Craven sitting at home.