Why high school community service should be encouraged rather than mandated

High school students should not have mandatory volunteer requirements. The very nature of volunteer community service is that the activity is voluntary and not mandated by the school. Making community service compulsory negates the intended purpose.

It is advisable for high school students to be introduced to the benefits of participation in community service. This is accomplished in most high schools today through elective courses of service learning curriculum.

Service learning classes are often confused with volunteer community service because often the companies involved are geared toward fulfilling specific needs in the community. The companies might range from local nursing homes to city park and recreation departments.

The service learning class differs from voluntary community service because there is a benefit compensation component for both the business and the students.

Local organizations and companies partner with the school district to offer short term learning opportunities to students who will earn class credit. The volunteering activity is only one aspect of the mutual learning service program.

The emphasis in the classroom curriculum is lessons on fulfilling civic duty and simultaneously learning about the environment and global responsibility. For example, a class could be assigned to pick up all the litter and trash along a river bank. The trash would be cataloged and analyzed for it’s potential for adverse effects on natural resources.

The class will offer guest speakers and the students will be involved in individual and group projects, keeping journals and writing essays on their findings. The class lesson plans lay the groundwork for the projects, but much of the cooperative learning activity is accomplished off site. The students learn skills in leadership, team building and how to meaningful engage with their surroundings.

The service learning class is an excellent vehicle for instilling in students the spirit of volunteering which they will carry with them into their adult lives. Learning the needs of their community and the various companies and organizations existing to meet those needs is invaluable for future activist behavior by former students on behalf of the community.

Since service learning classes take place as part of the school agenda it is beneficial and convenient for high school students to participate. Asking students to take on volunteer activiity in addition to their high school schedule is inappropriate.

In order to be well rounded individuals equipped to go out into the world and be optimally productive, students need to have the time to participate group sports and clubs, as well as have the opportunity for a social life and after school part time paid employment if needed or desired. Additional mandatory community service volunteer projects during the high school years could result in “burn out” and be detrimental to the student’s scholastic performance and personal well being.

It is not unusual for some civic minded students to take on volunteer work in lieu of after school activities or during their summer break. This is all the more admirable because of the true “volunteer” aspect of their participation.

Volunteerism cannot be mandated.