By: Michelle Ivette Rodriguez
Throughout their high school experience, students are required to perform a total of 80 hours of community service in order to walk at their graduation ceremonies. While community service assists in creating a sense of gratitude to one’s community, the meaning of community service has been lost as students rush to finish their hours. It seems as if community service is no longer about giving something back to the community but rather it has been adopted as getting something in return.
Community service is, traditionally speaking, assisting the elderly, volunteering with non-profit organizations, visiting the sick, etc. Community service is defined as the giving of one’s own time to do something that would benefit someone else. To go to tutoring – not to go tutor – is now an acceptable form of community service. To bring a canned food item in exchange for an hour of community service is now acceptable. The newly added items to the list of acceptable forms of community service is virtually endless, and to what end?
Students are not doing community service on their own anymore. They are waiting for someone or some club to present an opportunity such as going to a basketball game or donating clothes in order to obtain their hours. This form of “service” is unacceptable. Service is to be giving up one’s own time and actually working and putting effort into what one does. Simply giving a pair of jeans, an old coat, or a can of food is not sufficient. How is that fair to the students who spend their weekends volunteering and working at a hospital, animal shelter, battered women’s shelter, or their own church?
Those students invest a lot of time and effort into obtaining their hours. The time and effort they put in is not in vain either. It is put to good use by benefitting the less fortunate. Yes, donating to the Salvation Army or Goodwill is admirable, but it is not enough. There is little effort or time put into cleaning out one’s closet and donating the clothes to an organization. It is the fruit of one’s work that should provide enough incentive. If a school’s purpose is to create well-educated citizens of society who are aware of the troubles that their society faces, then they are not fulfilling their mandate in this matter. Teaching their students that in order to give up something of theirs, they need to get something in return, begs the question: what will the future of society be like in 10,15 years?
Schools are teaching students that narcissism constitutes service. Receiving tutoring benefits only one person – oneself. It is not service because it does not benefit society or any of its members. Receiving tutoring is different than providing tutoring. Providing tutoring helps and benefits someone else. However, despite this fact, Administration feels they already have a strict approach to community service because they are already giving students everything they need to complete the requirement. Yet, if schools took a different approach to service, the future of society would be better. Getting rid of the selfish expectations in exchange for work would restore service’s uncorrupted state.
At present, there are about 40 seniors who will not be able to walk at graduation because of insufficient service hours. While this number is relatively small, it describes the statistic as of the second semester. The opportunity of getting tutoring as a form of community service was put in place last school year. How many hours of community service did students receive that were not actually service to the community?
While it is understood that many of the simpler and easier options for obtaining community service were put into place in order to permit seniors to walk at graduation, it is still no excuse for the watered-down, almost non-existent version of service. Giving people the easy way out for doing what they need is not the way to go about cultivating well-educated members of society. Simply handing students their hours for non-consequential actions is not teaching them to appreciate the value and ethic of their own hard work.
Many clubs and organizations provide various opportunities throughout the year in order to obtain the community service requirement. Many of them are easy and will have students completing their hours quickly if done with consistency. However, community service can no longer be simply a “what do I get in return?” objective. It needs to be converted back to its original form of doing what is morally right without any incentive.