In the past couple decades, an increasing number of high schools across the nation have begun to implement a minimum volunteer hour requirement for graduation. The general consensus is that by fulfilling this requirement, students will become more engaged in their communities and gain valuable experience. However, there are many reasons a requirement should not be implemented at Diamond Bar High School.
Although there are myriad opportunities to volunteer in-person for hands-on experience working in the field of one’s choice, many students opt to collect hours by other means. In addition to regular volunteering opportunities, clubs such as DBHS’s Key Club and Red Cross Club have systems that offer ample hours in exchange for donations of cans and soda tabs. Because it is possible to get hours without actually volunteering, a high school requirement would only offer actual benefits to students who are willing to volunteer by showing up and working for their hours.
Only truly passionate students have meaningful experiences through their volunteering, while a requirement would serve as an easily manipulated burden to others. Yet volunteering remains popular in high school as it adds to one’s college apps.
Instead of requiring a certain number of volunteer hours, career-oriented classes should implement a volunteering requirement in their field like ROP Health Careers’ five-hour-per-month requirement to volunteer in a medical facility. If students find and take advantage of these opportunities, it can be ensured that they’re spending time meaningfully and gaining valuable experience in a career field they are interested in. As for those students who are not in one of these types of classes, compulsory volunteering would not benefit them.
The blanket requirement would make it nearly impossible to be certain that students’ time volunteering is spent meaningfully, and as a result, many meaningless hours would be earned. When students who have no desire to volunteer do so, they often spend their time fooling around or doing busy work while also growing to resent the practice.
A research paper by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy states that “[Mandatory volunteerism] incorporates such aspects of good citizenship as a sense of civic responsibility, a network of social connectedness, attentiveness to public life, and a willingness to contribute to achieving society’s collective goals.” However, that is not the purpose of high school. Students attend school to prepare for college by studying subjects such as math and English. This is why other interest-based subjects are not mandatory: they’re not a part of public school’s core purpose.
Considering not only the lack of benefits for students from compulsory volunteering, but also the downsides, it should not be imposed as a graduation requirement. Instead, high schoolers should be allowed to choose whether or not they want to volunteer, allowing them to further explore their interests with that time.
If the decision of whether to volunteer was up to the students, those who plan to volunteer meaningfully could do so while others can spend their time pursuing actual passions.