Should community service be required to graduate high school?
February 20, 2019
PRO: Mandatory volunteering opens doors to benefits
With tests, quizzes, extracurriculars and hours spent on homework, it’s easy for students to forget the benefits of volunteering. Community service should be adapted as a graduation requirement because it offers valuable gains to students.
Although this might not be the case for all colleges or universities, volunteering during high school is a plus and should be a requirement to graduate. While college admissions are most commonly associated with students’ GPA, people tend to forget colleges also consider volunteering when looking at applications.
A study of admissions officers from the Top 50 colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report showed that community service is something they believe students should have on their résumés. If the main purpose of high school is to gain entrance to and succeed at a college, then volunteering is a step every student should be encouraged to take.
While the number of volunteer hours will not tell colleges which students are actually passionate about what they are doing, if students are also required to explain what they did in those hours, colleges will be able to distinguish between students volunteering for graduation requirements and volunteering out of their own volition. If a student volunteers in five different clubs with no correlation to their major, the hours will look differently than a student volunteering for groups connected to their career choices.
Along with helping the college application process, it can also help students acquire real world experience before looking into a career. Students who want to pursue a medical profession can volunteer at a local hospital and expand their knowledge in the field. With the experience, students are offered the opportunity to network and gain connections with those in the profession who could help them in the future. Students also have the chance to experience what they’ve learned in classrooms in a practical and applicable way, which can help them see if a career is the right fit for them.
Volunteering also provides mental well-being. According to a study by UCSD researchers, serving others reduces stress and improves health, as focusing on someone else interrupts usual tension-producing patterns. Students might also feel more fulfilled after helping others who need their assistance.
Putting personal advantages aside, the purpose of volunteering is to give back to the community and help the needy. Many social issues need attention, but high schoolers are often too focused on their own situation to take action. We take time to complain about every bad test score, every argument with our parents and how we are not getting everything we “need.” Meanwhile, there’s a world outside our school that needs help. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 815 million people in the world suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2016. Yet, teens are constantly complaining about hunger two hours after they ate. Volunteer at a soup kitchen to witness what real hunger is all about.
High school graduation should require volunteering. They should be pushed to gain these academic and personal benefits while helping the community and expanding perspectives.
CON: Mandatory volunteering distracts from prioritized tasks
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.