When we students use our talents to do good for others and the greater community around us in areas that we are passionate about, we become passionate about and connected to the hands-on service that we’re pursuing.
So, why is it then, that each year, nearly 100 students fail to complete the community service requirement? And now that the requirement has been doubled to 12 hours instead of six, how can we expect that number not to rise?
The problem begins in the seventh grade, when hands-on service is deemphasized through the advertisement of indirect activities like walks. While this is not true for everyone, from a young age, many of us begin to think of community service as an irritation and it loses the meaning it is intended to have.
The “hands-on” service requirement is not actively enforced at the Middle School and even less at the Upper School. Students can easily exaggerate the number of hours they’ve completed.
Community service is an integral aspect of a thoughtful lifestyle. We are obviously not born with the urge to feed the homeless, but it’s a mindset that a good holistic education should inculcate.
Last week, Community Council hosted its annual Community Service Week. While it may have been intended to open our eyes to new ways to complete the new 12-hour requirement, nothing there was anything we hadn’t seen before. In fact, roughly 75 percent of more than 400 polled students said they thought Community Service Week was ineffective.
While Community Council continues to suggest opportunities old and new, we still see the service as nothing but an extra chore we must trudge through in order to graduate.
How can we be expected to see the requirement as anything besides a box to check off when Community Council itself trivializes opportunities by emphasizing that they can be completed quickly and easily?
Community service should be recognized, but does not need to be rewarded with Dippin’ Dots.
If our leaders in community service are passing off the service as just something quick to get done, our mindset towards community service will never change; however, it is not Community Council’s job alone to steer us in that direction — it has to start within us.
A great example of how students are taking their talents and interests outside the classroom to foster commitment to community service is the new Dare to Dream arts program. Dare to Dream is an excellent way for artists to take their hobby beyond their own creations, and students who are interested in this type of service are being led to it by teachers. Even students who are not participating in art classes are welcome to join and are sought after. Dare to Dream is a step in the right direction, but we need to go further.
Community Council needs to find a way to deal with students directly as well as to reach out to clubs and organizations not already represented on campus. Instead of relying on email announcements, or in the case of Community Service Week, word-of-mouth alone, perhaps it could develop a directory catalogued by interest with all available opportunities that could be accessed online and on the Hub.
We know students have the capacity to care, but we need to reevaluate the importance community service has in our day-to-day lives and education.