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.