Trying to survive high school service learning hours without losing your mind (or your soul)
Image from washington-fusd-ca.schoolloop.com.
As a high school student, you’ve probably heard the phrase “service learning hours” more times than you care to remember. It’s the dreaded requirement that every student must complete to graduate: 40 volunteer hours in their community, while also reflecting on their experiences and what they have learned. Although these hours for Washington are a graduation requirement, for some high schools, they are optional, but still encouraged as a way to develop important skills, gain valuable experience, and contribute to society.
Service learning opportunities can vary widely, from working with local non-profits to participating in environmental clean-up efforts or even providing assistance to vulnerable populations, among others. By engaging in service learning, high school students can develop a deeper understanding of their community, build important skills such as teamwork and communication, and gain a sense of personal fulfillment through contributing to a greater cause. But, is the system and meaning behind these service hours well constructed? Several students have begun to complain that the activities that they are volunteering at don’t count. A senior at Washington volunteered to teach kids after school at an elementary school. After she completed her hours and went to turn them in, her hours were rejected and didn’t count toward any credit. Confused and lost, she went to the office only to realize that there were specific rules and regulations as to where you can volunteer and where you cannot. But, isn’t the entire purpose of volunteering to help other people in our community?
While Washington’s school website provides links for service hours, many of these links are old or not very different. If students were provided with better resources, perhaps they would be able to complete these hours. In addition, some students may face barriers due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, or other obligations, which could create inequities and disparities in their ability to meet graduation requirements. There is also a risk of reinforcing the idea that volunteering is only valuable if it is done to fulfill requirements or impress college admissions officers, rather than as a genuine act of service and compassion.
As Washington’s service learning system continues to baffle students they can take this time to involve themselves in the community as much as possible. One of those services is bound to count towards your requirement to graduate. Or, students can choose to not volunteer at all and face this mystery of whether they will graduate or not.
Freshman: Michael Peng
Sophomore: Asees Aulakh
Junior: Lily Gabel
Senior: Xavier Townsend
Staff: Ms. Mitchell