by Sheetal Bangalore
The importance for students to acquire a large number of community service hours during their high school career is a challenge for many MHS students. Students rush to collect community service hours because they know how important the hours are to a college application and to claiming a high level of participation in prestigious clubs. But do students understand the real reason why accumulating community service hours is so vital?
Community service enables students to acquire life skills and knowledge, as well as provide a service to those who need it most. There are three main benefits in participating in community service activities: psychological, cognitive, and social benefits. Although it may seem surprising, volunteering increases overall life satisfaction and helps people feel good about themselves because they are helping others. It can also help to decreases stress and ease depression. Another benefit of volunteering for students is it helps enhance their personal knowledge, grow from new experiences, and develop better interpersonal communication skills. All these skills can only be gained through participating in community service activities. Most obviously, volunteering engages students with the community, creates special bonds with the population being served, and increases social awareness and responsibility. When students volunteer in their community, they are doing their part to make the world a better place.
In the past few years though, students, especially at Morristown High School, have grown desperate for community service hours. Instead of earning community service hours honorably through volunteering their time making the world a better place, students have been buying their community service hours through physical goods. Through several school clubs, students have been donating items and receiving community service hours depending on how many items they donate and the quality of the items. In essence, students are using their money, instead of volunteering their time to gain community service hours.
Not only does buying community service hours defeat the purpose of doing community service, it is also unethical. The purpose of having students participate in community service activities is for students to dedicate their time to helping those in their community. Community service entails that students are taking time out of their busy schedules and physically being present to help those in need. However, donating items is not the same as donating time. A student can simply donate an item by spending a few minutes at the store buying it and then dropping it off at a designated locations. When students donate items, they are not interacting with the people they are helping and they are spending very little time on it. Therefore, when students receive community service hours for donating items, they are claiming that they volunteering their time, when in fact, they are spending their money. For this reason, programs such as the STEM Academy at Morristown High School are no longer accepting community service hours that were acquired through donations. The STEM Academy feels that it is unethical to count donations towards volunteering. This year, Key Club is also revisiting its policy regarding donations counting as community service hours.
Participating in community service activities not only looks on places such as resumes, but it builds students’ skills and improves their knowledge. Students should realize how much they are benefiting from completing community service and they should take it seriously. Just by one student volunteering in the community he/she is making a difference in the world.