Should Community Service be Required?
Graduation is a day highly valued by students, signifying the end of their high school experience. To attend this treasured event, every student must complete certain requirements, including 4 credits of English and 3 of math. At Blind Brook High School, along with many other schools nationwide, there is one additional requirement: fulfilling a specific amount of hours of community service work.
Blind Brook began the 80 hours of community service requirement in 2003 and has been consistent since. As long as you complete 80 hours by the end of your four-year period in high school, you’re set. The thought of having to complete 20 hours of community-based learning per year is fairly manageable. While one could argue that the requirement is time-consuming for students who have a myriad of other responsibilities on their plates, I believe that service-learning or community service hours should be necessary to graduate high school. This obligation promotes being a good citizen and helping a group larger than yourself.
Many advantages come from participating in events to benefit your community through volunteering. For one, it shows that you are an active member of your community and that you attempt to be a helpful citizen. Some of the volunteer activities I’ve been involved in range from raising money for good causes to teaching young kids sports. It feels good knowing that I made a positive change to the world, no matter how small it may be. Senior Giacomo Mejia agrees and feels accomplished having known he contributed to the school play through his volunteer work. “It feels really nice to help others in need, and in the plays’ case, to see the final product and know I was a part of the creation.”
Volunteer opportunities can also help you form friendships and connections you might have never expected before. They can furthermore lead you towards a passion you might not have expected. One student, senior Jennifer McKay, shares her positive experience with me. She says, “I had never really been into nature or wildlife. After I volunteered at an invasive vine removal near Oakland Beach, I realized that I had a newfound love for the outdoors. I brought my friends and carried this on at Crawford Park, the high school, and in Port Chester”. McKay not only discovered a new fascination with nature, but she also continued her volunteer work on a larger scale.
Making community service a requirement ensures students will at least spend the minimum time volunteering in their community. Without this mandate, volunteering would not be prioritized and instilled in every single student. Through volunteering, humans can develop new skills in integrity, leadership, and empathy. Plus, they can carry these meaningful experiences and skills onto their professional lives where these students will be engaged citizens. Dr. Dorothy Height, president and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women, says: “Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop”. Blind Brook must keep the community service hour requirement to ensure students learn the importance of helping others.
Community service has been an add-on to the graduation requirement at many high schools like Blind Brook and also plays a role in college admissions. Making community service a necessity has created students who are not genuine in their want to help the community around them. It would be much more impressive for students to show their involvement and commitment to community service as a choice instead of as a mandate, and I’m not alone in this sentiment. 12th-grade student Kira Tannenbaum says, “I just think that making community service hours required leads to more resume padding and people are doing it for the wrong reasons. It’s another insincere thing to submit to colleges.” She sees community service as a false application booster for students who aren’t deserving of the credit. Other seniors have the same opinion. 12th-grade student Lilly Kleinhandler says, “Requiring community service takes away the meaning of doing it, people are only doing it because they have to, and not because they want to.” Making it a requirement also makes students feel less excited to engage with the community. Jenna Kamin, a 12th-grade student at Blind Brook, illustrates this idea, saying, “It causes a negative connotation to community service; it seems more dreadful than it’s meant to and becomes a required assignment.” Student Amanda Drazka agrees, mentioning that “requiring community service forces kids to be extrinsically motivated because they only participate because they have to, and not because they want to better the community.”
Other seniors consider additional consequences that come with this requirement. Keith Konigsberg mentioned that “later in life, people won’t be as likely to participate in community service because of the negative association they have from high school’s requirements.” Jackson Campbell even mentioned that the process of logging the community service hours makes it less rewarding, and reinforces the idea that it is an assignment rather than doing it for the good of the community. The fact that students need to display a certain amount of community service hours in order to graduate makes it feel like a check-off of their to-do list instead of a personal desire to better the world around them.
Students that feel committed and interested in community service should be able to impress the community and stand out from the rest of college applicants and their graduating class. These students should be able to shine in doing something meaningful for their community instead of blending in with the group of students who did community service only because they had to. Instead of community service requirements inspiring students to give back, it instead has had the opposite effect, as most students stop participating in community service once the necessary 80 hours are complete. It is critical that community service hours are not required so that students can learn the importance of helping others in a natural way.