Renea Crawford’s life philosophy is as simple as it is poignant: “Be a blessing, and you will receive a blessing.”
She worked hard throughout her life, committing 22 years to the U.S. Air Force and retiring as a Master Sergeant, and continues to serve her community and the needy through the American Veterans (AmVets) military charity.
Crawford recently added further credentials to her career as a community service leader—two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees, which she earned on the GI Bill in four years. She said her return to school was the completion of a promise she made to her mother years ago.
“My mom and I had this conversation a couple of weeks ago,” Crawford said. “I went into the Air Force a week out of high school. When I turned 18, I went into basic, but I promised her I would go back to school. I just never said when.”
Crawford’s mother holds a Ph.D. in accounting management, and pressed her daughter to pursue higher education as an investment for her future, following in her example.
Crawford’s mother gave birth to Crawford when she was 15, and her sister when she was 16, Crawford said. After raising her daughters, she joined the job corps and eventually went back to college in Seattle.
“I was born in Georgia, but I was raised in Seattle,” Crawford said.
“I had always wanted to go back. It’s so beautiful, and there’s so much to do, but the last time I went, the cost of living was incredible! I love the South, and I’m trying to stay South.”
Crawford ’s journey began in air crew flight equipment with the USAF, where she moved from place to place most of her life, working with parachutes, ejection seats, survival equipment and other technology. When she decided to retire from Moody, her skills were difficult to translate to the civilian world in Valdosta, but other knowledge set her up to become a charity leader.
“I could have been a forest ranger or something like that, or I could use what I learned about management and supply, about budgeting,” Crawford said. “In my crew, you learn about people, and I piggy-backed off of that.”
Crawford might have sought employment elsewhere, but when she retired in 2008, her son enjoyed playing football and soccer for Lowndes High School, and she was “tired of moving him around,” she said.
“So when I retired, I went back to school,” she said. “I used my Montgomery GI Bill, which gave me three years of paid tuition, and during that time I got a dual bachelor’s degree from Park University here on base.”
She graduated in 2010, then continued her education at Webster University through correspondence courses to earn her master’s degree with funding from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Crawford was able to complete four degrees in four years because her courses were offered in eight-week-long, accelerated terms.
Crawford graduated October 2012 with bachelor degrees in Business Management and Human Resource Management and masters degrees in Management and Leadership and Human Resource Management.
Really, her journey is just beginning.
“When I was in school, I worked a little bit, part time here and there,” Crawford said. “I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I started volunteering in the community. I’ve been volunteering for a couple of years now, the majority of my time at AmVets.”
Her service became a dedication, and now, post-graduation, after four years with the organization, Crawford is operating as the Second Vice Commander of AmVets, but it earns her “not a penny,” she said.
Crawford is searching for full-time employment, and is most passionate about becoming a schoolteacher. She is currently at work earning her teaching certificate.
“I want to find something in my field, but I would rather find it in a non-profit,” Crawford said. “I want to utilize what I learned in school, but it doesn’t have to be at the corporate level. The reason I’d like to become a teacher I’m sure has something to do with that fact that my mother is a teacher. But don’t tell her that; it would make her head swim!”
Crawford believes that, for veterans at least, community service provides a great outlet for military retirees looking for work, and she would like to help other veterans follow her path, which for Crawford has been very rewarding.
As she has tried to share her blessings with those in need, Crawford hopes others will return the favor.