We are pleased to celebrate SVUDL’s first Volunteer of the Year: Carolyn Straub! Since last spring Carolyn has been writing SVUDL’s Debater of the Week series, bringing her unique voice and perspective to shine the spotlight on our students. This week, we’re turning the spotlight around to honor the “woman behind the keyboard!”
Carolyn’s appreciation for diversity and adventure have taken this Santa Rosa native far, including a year in South Korea helping high school aged North Korean refugees learn English, improving their chances of finding work in South Korea. She has a passion for volunteerism and has worked with both the Spark program and Standup for Kids.
She holds a similar passion for debate, believing “debate changes lives and is incredible preparation for college and the professional world--regardless of what profession you choose!” She was one of three students who started a debate team at her high school because, like several of the SVUDL debaters she’s profiled, “I had always known that I loved to give presentations and talk to large groups. We started out as a tiny club that met during lunch in the classroom of our favorite English teacher. Over the years we advocated for it to become a full elective class and by senior year, it was! This article highlights the success of that team. Carolyn went on to do ethics debate while attending the University of San Diego (this article features her success in that arena).
An avid outdoor enthusiast who sails, hikes, rock climbs, skis, and owns her own kayak, Carolyn strives to approach every day as if it has “the potential to be an adventure, an opportunity for exploration and growth.” By day, she’s a Program Manager on the Gmail backend engineering team, and loves the variety in her job: “Each day I work on many different things and am never settled on just one task. I like the myriad of projects, people and things buzzing in my mind.”
Carolyn enjoys volunteering for SVUDL because “talking to the students is so inspiring. Getting to naturally talk to (them), and answering any questions they have...the students seem particularly interested in ethics debate as something fun to try in college.” She has noted several common themes across students: 1) they have all learned to be more confident in articulating their thoughts 2) they talk about having a changed worldview from debate and 3) the staff at SVUDL makes them feel special, cared for and encouraged. The impact SVUDL has is immense and to be able to, in some small way, support the amazing work that the staff does is a privilege.”
Carolyn, it’s a privilege to have YOU on our volunteer team. Thank you for everything you do, and congratulations on being SVUDL’s first Volunteer of the Year!