Just finish community service

Two hundred seniors’ names decorate the wall next to Upper School Dean Canh Oxelson’s Chalmers office. If you are one of those seniors, you might want to finish your community service.

The deadline is May 2, and if you haven’t completed your requirement by then, unfortunate consequences await. You will have to do more community service than the requirement dictates, and you will not matriculate until you finish those hours. You may receive an empty folder instead of a diploma at graduation, and until you officially graduate, your final transcript will not be sent to the college you plan to attend.

These punishments are appropriate, and the administration rightly demonstrated its commitment to the school community service requirement by announcing these consequences.

In recent years, the Community Council has successfully planned and advertised dozens of events, helping students complete a reasonable school requirement that aims to build community both inside and outside of school.

In spite of this sturdy foundation, however, the council and the school were unable to prevent over 100 students from disregarding their community service last year, and as of now, it looks like this year could be exactly the same.

Although these numbers seem to undermine the credibility of the council and of the school’s community service requirement, this ambivalence toward service is not the fault of the system. The students who ignored the requirement last year did so not because the current requirement is too onerous but rather because there were no immediate consequences for their actions. This new policy, however, sends a clear, reasonable message to the student body.

Admittedly, the current program is not perfect, and several changes should be made that both encourage students to complete their requirement and make community service more meaningful for all involved.

The Community Council could do more to promote repeat trips to the same place or event. Students who attend an isolated community service event do not develop substantial relationships with people inside or outside the community. While the demise of the Harvard-Westlake Chandler Tutoring program indicates the difficulty students have in making regular service commitments, a more concerted effort to promote these types of programs could help them work.

Secondly, as the school is already beginning to do, the Community Council should aid already existing groups within the school community, like the volleyball team or peer support groups, in setting up team or club events. Working together, these students, who are already tightly-knit, will make the community service experience something to look forward to rather than a burden. And they will grow even closer in the process.

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