Why High Schools Should Require Community Service                 Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, once said “educate and inform the whole mass of the people…

they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Jefferson believed that free, public education was necessary in order for a democracy to function. Public schools are a part of our country in order to ensure that our next generation will continue to uphold their rights and liberties. The reason high schools exist is to prepare their students for a future where they are informed and involved in their communities, as well as their country. Community service fosters personal growth and a sense of responsibility in students. Although many people are against the idea of “mandatory volunteering,” community service should be mandated by high schools because the pros of community service far outweigh its cons. All American citizens are responsible to be active in their communities, in order to ensure the success of a government run by the people.

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Community service is one way for people to become acquainted with the problems facing their society, and what they can do to fix those issues. It helps people to become better educated about what needs they want their representatives to address. They establish connections with people outside of their usual social circles, and learn more about the lives of others. In this way, community service helps to break down barriers between the different groups in society, and helps to combat racist views and clear misconceptions that people have about each other. Most non profit organizations that benefit the country, like the American Red Cross, are able to function because of the invaluable work of volunteers. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the value of the work done by volunteers last year alone was about $178 billion in hours. So there is no question about how crucial volunteers are to our functioning society. By making community service hours a requirement, high schools are instilling this community activism in their students.

According to childtrends.org, teenagers who are engaged in community service programs are more likely to vote and to volunteer later in life, and are less likely to participate in drugs and other activities adverse to community interests. While the enrichment of the community is one of the most important payoffs of community service, the benefits of community service are not limited to the community itself. The students who perform community service also receive academic and social benefits. Volunteering provides students with opportunities to apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom to real life. Interacting with different age groups and in professional settings provides students with experiences that will be vital for their future. Community service also develops career readiness in students, from allowing them to explore what they are passionate about to helping them discover new talents. For example, while tutoring younger students I have found that I have been able to use what I have learned in school about technology to create engaging worksheets for my students online.

I have learned how to politely interact with adults and how to understand and get my points across to young children. I have been able to share my own techniques for learning and have gained new ones from my students. Now that I’ve experienced teaching, I’ve realized how much I enjoy working with kids, and I now know how rewarding it is to have the responsibility of assisting in a child’s development. Volunteering also causes unexpected rewards that are unique to each student, like how tutoring helped me to review and further enhance my own understanding of certain concepts.

These benefits are felt universally by all high schools that integrate community service into the lives of their students. In fact, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) reports that students who are required to do community service are 22 percent more likely to graduate college and are more likely to improve their test scores in Reading, Science, Math, and History than students that aren’t. Community Service can also improve college success by enhancing college applications and enabling students to garner letters of recommendation from the various people they make connections with during their time in different organizations. College admissions officers are interested in the impacts that students have made in their communities and how they have demonstrated leadership qualities–two important aspects of community service. Serving the community can also help pay for college by opening up an opportunity to earn one of the many college scholarships catered toward students who participate in community service.

One of the most popular arguments against mandatory community service is that forcing students to volunteer causes them to develop a resentment toward community service, and discourages them from volunteering in the future. However, this misconception about the effects of mandatory volunteering on students amounts to nothing when compared with the positive responses of actual students. A research report by Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization that provides assistance to charities and nonprofits, surveyed a group of high school students who had a mandatory community service requirement. The study found that there was no significant difference between voluntary and mandatory community service in students, and that the fact that community service was mandatory “had no negative impacts on the quality of students’ experiences, on their subsequent civic engagement, or on their attitudes concerning philanthropy.” They also reported that many of the students they surveyed would never have volunteered if they had not been required to by their school. So, encouraging students to partake in community service, whether it’s by making it mandatory or by any other means, raises children who have experience making an impact on the world, helps children give back to the community that supports them, increases the likelihood that students will grow into active, community-minded adults, while decreasing the possibility of students engaging in activities that hurt the community.In conclusion, making community service a graduation requirement is one of the most impactful decisions high schools can make in order to fulfill their responsibility to raise citizens that can actively participate in their country.

Community service teaches children lessons that can’t be learned by sitting in a classroom, and provides children with experiences they need in order to succeed in adult life. It gives teenagers important tools for college and increases their academic progress, as well as their social growth. High schools that mandate community service provide countless high school volunteers that will help further the causes of organizations that assist the needy and strengthen the community. In an age where natural disasters have made it clear how priceless the work of volunteers really is, schools and students need to do all they can to support the next generation of active community members.                                           Works Cited”Volunteering and Civic Life in America.” Corporation for National and Community Service, www.nationalservice.gov/vcla.

Zaff, F. Jonathan, Michelsen, Erik, “Encouraging Civic Engagement: How Teens Are (or Are Not) Becoming Responsible Citizens.” Child Trends  01 Oct. 2002, 15 Dec. 2017Pancer, Mark, et al.

The Impact of High School Mandatory Community Service Programs on Subsequent Volunteering and Civic Engagement. Imagine Canada, 2007, sectorsource.ca/sites/default/files/resources/files/WLU_MandatoryVolunteering_Feb07_2007.pdf.

“Volunteering/Community Service”  CIRCLE RSS 15 Dec. 2017 civicyouth.org