StaffEd: CHS should strive to improve participation in community service

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staff ed cartoonMany CHS students participate in countless hours of community service each school year. From playing bingo at a nursing home, cleaning up a local highway or planning the annual Arts Fair, the opportunities to get involved are endless for CHS students.

Sadly, despite the ample options for CHS students to start volunteering, not enough students actually get involved.

Why is this? Is it an unmotivated student body or lack of leadership from the administration? Do some CHS students feel that their families already give money to charities and thus they are exempt from volunteering?

Maybe it is a slight combination of all of these forces working together. But the only thing that can be easily changed is the way the administration endorses volunteering.

It’s not that the administration doesn’t support community service; it just has neglected its key role in CHS students’ education.

Currently we have a school-sponsored community service club that offers students several opportunities to volunteer each month. And most notably, each year the administration supplies the resources and the entire day off of school for the Arts Fair.

Furthermore, if a student completes 40 hours of volunteer work during their high school career they receive a “Community Service Award” and an asterisk by their name in the graduation pamphlet.

However, there used to be two tiers to this award. A 40 hour and 100 hour level. But for whatever reason, the administration has consolidated the award into one level. Any students who complete a mere 40 hours during their high school career will now receive this honor.

Nonetheless, even with the low standard of 40 hours, that is a sheer 10 hours of volunteering each year, only a third of the graduating class even received this award last year.

Although there are local schools that give less encouragement to do community service than we do, by any Clayton standards this is merely a rudimentary attempt.

At some St. Louis county public schools community service is actually a requirement for graduation. At other schools, though not a requirement, the principals, counselors and teachers encourage volunteering so much that almost every student participates regularly in some way. At other schools around the country, entire curriculums are based off of community service.

It’s difficult to say why the administration has taken such a stance on community service in the past, but one thing is for sure; their approach to the subject needs to change.

The administration must realize that there is a wide range of motivation for students to try to better the community around them. Some students do it out of the goodness of their heart, while others are doing it for their college applications or to get the asterisk next to their name on the graduation pamphlet.

However, whatever the motivation, the outcome is always positive. Not only does the community students’ work with gain something, but also students themselves gain a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and a life long habit of giving back to the community. Community service not only builds character but also exposes students to a multitude of fields in which they may gain an interest in studying in, teaches students new skills and allows students to make a positive impact on the world around them.

By no means is a graduation requirement necessary, but the administration needs to work on making community service appealing and accessible to students.

At one point the CHS freshmen used to go on a field trip called “respect and Responsibility day” where students would learn about and participate in community service across St. Louis. Could this day be revived to encourage freshmen to get involved?

Principals and counselors need to continually encourage students to participate in community service and create incentives for students to get involved, because a simple asterisk isn’t going to motivate too many CHS students.

Nonetheless, this issue does not lie entirely in the hands of the administration, the real issue lies within the student body.

Students who attend this school, regardless of where they live or how much their family makes, are more fortunate than a large portion of the world, just because of the quality of education they are receiving.

Because of this we are not burdened, but privileged, to have the responsibility to give our time and energy to those who need help and give back to the community that has allowed us to be in the position we are in.

Community service does not have to be a chore. Choose something that is fun, do it with friends and do something that is actually making difference.

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