Should Community Service Be Required?

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Meera Parikh

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Mandatory volunteer service requirement

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Mandatory volunteer service requirement

According to the Madison High School Handbook, “National Honor Society members are required to complete a minimum of 25 hours of volunteer service each calendar year.” While this statement may look normal at first glance, the idea of “required volunteer service” is truly an oxymoron.

 

There is nothing wrong with encouraging students to serve their community. In fact, volunteering has been proven to increase life-expectancy, lower rates of depression, and improve life-satisfaction (Corporation for National and Community Service). Service learning, such as the Day of Service, is a particularly effective means of education because students gain awareness of themselves, their community, and the world through engaging, hands-on experiences.

 

While Madison High School’s service requirement for graduation is relatively meager–only seven hours per year that can be fulfilled by the Day of Service–it accomplishes its goal much better than many other schools with more stringent requirements. In a single day devoted to giving back to the community, students gain exposure to different types of service through activities like doing yard work for elderly people, cleaning up the high school, or playing with children with disabilities. Without violating the true meaning of volunteerism by forcing students to partake in it, MHS gives students a taste of how it feels to help others, hopefully encouraging them to pursue service projects during the school year.

 

However, issues arise in academic programs, like National Honor Society, in which volunteering is mandatory. First of all, time spent serving a person or a community should not be quantified in recorded “hours.” What matters most is the quality and passion that the students put into each moment of their work, not the amount of time they spend. Unlike a paid job where employees are motivated by personal gain, volunteering should come from a pure desire to make a positive change in someone’s life. Therefore, students’ only incentive should be the feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping others. Finally, forcing students to volunteer could potentially backfire, causing them to see it as a chore and discouraging them from participating in it when it is not mandatory.

 

Ultimately, community service comes down to compassion. While schools can foster kindness and empathy by teaching students to be grateful for what they have, they cannot force a person to be compassionate. That is a personal choice a student will make, as is deciding whether to volunteer. Even if the requirement is not removed, it should be renamed as “mandatory community service,” to maintain the selflessness of volunteering.

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