Remember the time you were on your way to take out the trash when suddenly you ran into your mother? She reminded you that you had yet to take out the trash and it needed to be done in time for trash day. The mere action of your mother forcing you to do something good has made you hesitant. The self-motivated action become one that you only completed out of coercion, only because of being forced into the matter.
Community service is similar; it is a delightful, rewarding experience unless it is forced and students cannot find acts of community service that appeal to them. I find students often very eager to do things for the greater good, like helping one another with homework or picking up a book that someone else had dropped. Contrary to popular belief, not all kids are cruel.
Community service is a wonderful involvement, especially for young students with so much ability to help others. But the glamor disappears when the choice is taken away. Instead of portraying community service an act of kindness when a student participates in it, we make it something that is penalized if not completed and turned in on time. Only recently has Pinewood
incorporated the Presidential Service Award, which commends students who help others instead of chastising those
who do not.
Students who participate in community service because they are passionate about the cause they are helping
are those who get the most out of the experience and whose help is most valued. Few students today take up volunteering out of sheer altruism. Instead, it is something students participate in because it is something they enjoy. They have a genuine commitment to what they do.
I believe the required amount of hours limits passion and learning. My freshmen year, I found multiple organizations that weren’t special to me. However, this past summer I worked as a teacher’s assistant at the Peninsula Bridge program where I
got to know the students and even taught a few lessons myself. Not only did getting to know the kids make me enthusiastic about the work I was doing, but teaching lessons made me realize it was something I enjoyed and could become very good at.
The program helped me learn more in a short time than I could have had I been forced into it. I got excited to go see them every morning. Required hours stop us from empathizing with the people they help. Students will find they actually learn something when they contribute to a cause that is special to them. The only way students and the people we help will get any benefit from our service is if it is given by choice. Otherwise, forced community service will become as bad as taking out the trash.