Should community service be required to graduate?

Ryan Donnelly , Staff Writer

From seniors worrying about college applications to freshmen just gaining their bearings in the Upper School, many students are thinking about fulfilling their community service requirement for graduation: 50 hours of some sort of community service. Many schools across the country do not require community service as part of their students’ graduation requirements. The argument is that students who are passionate about community service will choose to do it, and those who are not are not forced to. However, are these students really getting to understand their community and its dynamic during their secondary school education, which is intended to prepare them for college and the world around them? Are they showing that they are virtuous citizens when it is time to enter college or beyond?

In a community like ours, where we are all lucky to go to an exceptional school like Princeton Day, I feel that it is our task to give back to our communities. It is vital that we remember the less fortunate, the needy, the problems, and the little qualities that our community is made up of. Whether it is volunteering at an animal shelter, or a soup kitchen, or even a local library, community service helps us assist those in need and maintains the virtue and essence of our community, which I feel is necessary to our learning and development. “When everybody in the community is exposed … there is more opportunity for people to learn about community service and about their community,” remarked Upper School math teacher and Community Service Coordinator Alex Lasevich.

Also, an important part of a secondary school is to prepare students for the world outside the gates, not just to prepare for college. To me, understanding the world is a very large part of preparing for it. Community service is a useful and convenient way for students to begin to understand their community as well as do good along the way.

I feel that another reason community service is important to a secondary school education is that it can lead to something larger in the future. If students happen to choose a community service project that is not already a passion, it could turn into something they may want to pursue. Director of College Counseling Sarah Graham proposed, “Exposure to community service in any of its forms can help students realize things that they might never have realized about themselves before that; in turn they want to continue when they go to college.”She then went on to reference a student who volunteered at SAVE (an animal shelter) who ordinarily would not have been interested in working with animals, but ended up using that in a new direction when he/she went to college.

Though it may not be a “make-or- break” factor or even required in college acceptance even to the most selective of schools, community service can make a difference on an application to make it more well-rounded. An outstanding community service record would be something to be proudly relayed to colleges whether it is an impressive amount of hours, the creation of a foundation, or something unique that particular student is interested in. A required community service program could lead to these new discoveries of interest, passion, or perseverance and bring these qualities out in students who otherwise would not uncover them. For a community as fortunate as ours, I think that a required community service program would help us to understand and aid the surrounding community, lead us to find our passions, as well as give us yet another distinguishing factor in our application to colleges.