Pro/Con: Should community service be a required aspect of a freshman’s grade?
Two staffers debate whether or not required volunteer hours should be an component of the freshmen curriculum.
February 14, 2018
The Portage area boasts many great opportunities to help and give back to people in need. Incoming freshmen must complete a total of ten hours of community service over the course of the school year. While some freshmen think it’s unfair for the school to control free time, this mandatory volunteering helps to benefit the community and inspires students to continue giving back in the future.
By volunteering, students can meet new friends and gain valuable experiences from working with and helping people of all different backgrounds. Community service engages freshmen in helping the community, bettering lives and creating a culture of selflessness.
One popular freshmen volunteering opportunity is Portage Northern’s Breadlift fundraiser. According to PN Senate advisor and social studies teacher Kellie Pittman, “more than half of [Breadlifters] were freshmen.”
Pittman believes the requirement inspires students to volunteer outside of mandatory hours, explaining that “the promise of getting those five community service hours reels them in, but the excitement and camaraderie keeps them coming back.”
Therefore, freshmen gain a love for volunteering past required hours. For example, sophomore David Le participated in Breadlift both as a freshman and sophomore. Without freshmen community service requirements, Breadlift may not be the big Huskie tradition it is today.
Freshmen community service gives students experience building important skills. “[Volunteering] builds important skills that [students] will need,” said Pittman. “Working with adults and learning communication skills” are a few of the reasons she thinks freshmen students benefit from the requirement. These skills are mostly developed outside of school and volunteering is a great way to improve them.
Opposers of required volunteer hours say that community service should come from a heartfelt desire to help others, not from an educational mandate. However, freshmen requirements inspire students to continue serving the community in the future and teach students valuable life lessons.
Community service helps people regardless if freshmen are passionate about it. As sophomore Zach Lewis explains, “helping people is always good in general.” Heartfelt or not, freshmen volunteering still helps the community. Freshmen community service requirement should stand because of its many benefits to the community and the volunteers themselves.
Many former freshmen look back on their first year of high school with fond memories. The only blemish is the mandatory community service. All freshmen who attend Portage Northern High School are required to take part in community service for five hours in the first and second semester. While some people think that this is a good thing because it encourages freshmen to help their community, many disagree. Freshmen already have to deal with learning how to navigate a new building and environment – which can be very stressful and confusing – and worrying about how to get five hours every semester is just not necessary. “It added a little extra stress,” said sophomore Joey Posso. “It came mostly from getting signatures and writing about my experience.” On top of the service itself, writing in detail about experience is another stressful aspect of the assignment. Community service should come from the heart of the person, not from the guidelines of a mandatory assignment.
In history class, service hours are worth 20% of a student’s exam grade. Essentially, instead of helping their community for the sake of doing good, freshmen are helping themselves. They don’t necessarily care about what work they do or who it helps, but rather how it helps their grade. Joey Proos agreed with this as well: “When I was doing my community service, I was thinking about how I was going to get a better grade on my exam.”
Many former and current freshmen care about the service they do and do not do it for the grade. It is great that people can do service, if they choose, on their own time. However, it doesn’t need to become a mandatory part of the freshmen curriculum.
Another issue is that this assignment applies only to freshmen. Does community service have an age limit? No. If a school is going to make its youngest, most inexperienced students who cannot drive themselves do community service, the least they can do is also require it for their older, more experienced students. Not just for the IB and National Honors Society students, where extra work is to be expected, but for sophomores, juniors and seniors not involved in those programs. Freshmen are at the greatest disadvantage when it comes to getting to their service, yet they are the only students required to do so. It doesn’t add up.
Portage Northern is requiring freshmen to take part in something that can be stressful and has nothing to do with the rest of their classes. Freshmen should partake in community service only if they wish to do so; it should not be an exam grade. It is adding unnecessary stress to the lives of perhaps the most vulnerable students in high school and is singling them out in a way that may not encourage them to participate in community service in the future.