Community service should be left to students’ initiative

January 21, 2010 — by Karthik Annaamalai and Ren Norris

When many people hear the words “community service,” they usually think of felons in orange vests picking up trash on the side of a highway as a form of punishment to compensate for a crime that they had committed. But here at Saratoga High, the words community service have a different meaning as most students believe that the more extra service they perform, the more appealing they will become to colleges.

At some other high schools, a certain number of community service hours is a requirement for students to graduate. But having this requirement defeats the purpose of giving back to the community because students are forced to do it. It is the same situation with students who only do community service to polish their resumé. Community service should be a way for people to help out those who are less fortunate, but students are defeating the intent of service by using it for other motives.

Even though the people receiving the service wouldn’t know the difference as long as work is being done, the requirements for service would force those who don’t really care serve, essentially detracting from its value. Community service is more rewarding for the workers when they know they are performing the task to make a difference instead of to look “better” for colleges.

Senior Malika Kumar is an example of a student who does community service for the right reasons. She volunteers for Good Samaritan Hospital as well as programs through Sacred Heart. At the hospital, Kumar works for a program called “Smiles” where she goes to patient’s rooms and cheers them up.

“I really like to give back,” said Kumar, “because I think we’re fortunate to we live in Saratoga, where we have the benefits of a nice house, nice school, and a really nice community. It’s important that we help out people who are less fortunate.”

Clubs such as Interact, Key Club, CSF and National Honors Society provide opportunities for students to serve, but many students join these clubs for the sole purpose of appealing to colleges. It is not bad to gain college recognition for doing community service, but activities on your resumé should represent your actual interests, not something students do just to appear benevolent.

“It’s really unfair for people to not be motivated by an actual desire to help out, but just be concerned with getting your hours,” said Kumar. “It defeats the spirit of community service if people’s hearts aren’t in it.”

By requiring students to perform a certain number of community service hours, the school would also diminish the value of service, making it more like a punishment and less of an act done out of the heart.

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