“I’m only in it for the hours.”
This is the common response often received when you ask a high schooler why they do community service. High school students from all over the globe spend their weekends at homeless shelters, hospitals, or their local food bank and dedicate their time to helping the community. While this may sound promising, it’s not always done with genuinely whole-hearted intentions. Community service has become an activity where teenagers only participate for the sake of getting hours to put on their college resumes.
For the past five years, DoSomething.org, an organization that encourages teens to take action, has taken part in continuous studies regarding community service when applying to colleges. Seventy percent of admission officers prefer students who involve themselves in long-term service to those who dabble in multiple projects, because it shows dedication and passion; something regarded very highly among universities.
“I don’t think high schools should require community service hours,” junior Claire Callan said. “It just makes the [student] feel like [he or she] ‘needs’ to get hours and not make those hours meaningful.”
Author David Campbell writes in his book, Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Public Life, that 63% of students said volunteering would look good on their resume and 60% said that they engage in service because it helps them get into contact with people who can help advance their career.
“I definitely think that less people are enjoying community service and more and more people are doing it just for college,” sophomore Lauren Cameron said. “I’m really sad to see the true meaning of service lost in creating the ‘perfect’ resume.”
According to Education Reporter Sarah Sparks, the state of Maryland requires that all students complete at least 75 hours of community service before graduation. However, Trinity students have differing views on the subject.
“I think that schools should keep their community service as voluntary,” senior Donald Phan said. “By requiring a certain amount of hours to graduate, more people would consider their service as a burden rather than an act of kindness.”
Instead of helping the community for selfless reasons, there is also the ulterior motive for doing service for personal gain, which goes against the whole purpose of giving back.
“I honestly don’t approve of doing community service just to get the hours,” Cameron said. “Yes, people are still being helped [but] if you aren’t doing service with heart, you’ll never get anything out of your experience.”
Although the intentions of service have taken on a selfish turn for some people, many Trinity students still embody the true meaning of giving back to the community.
Callan is an active member constantly dedicating her time to the community. In school, she is President of Trinity’s chapter of Key Club and a member of the Habitat Club. Outside of school she volunteers as a sailing instructor and at The Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPS); an organization that helps teach autistic kids how to play soccer.
“My favorite community service project that I’ve been a part of is ‘Senior Prom’,” Callan said. Considerably the biggest Key Club project of the year, Senior Prom gives senior citizens the opportunity to attend the prom they never had.
“Students set up this event and socialize with those living in the retirement [home] as they listen to the live music performed,” Callan said.
As a passionate volunteer, Cameron’s genuine love for helping others is undeniable. She mostly volunteers for outside of school organizations such as Gliding Stars, a program that teaches disabled children how to ice skate, Sister to Sister, a ministry for those in need in downtown Orlando, Drive for a Better Life, a donation drive for various causes that she leads in her neighborhood and the Coalition for the Homeless, where she and her family give out donuts on the street once every month.
“I try to get involved in as many service projects as I have time for, and focus my time on causes that I’m really passionate about,” Cameron said.
Apart from her work outside of school, she also helps out at the Habitat House whenever she can. Additionally, she and fellow classmate Lee Place have started a new club at school called the “Come Together Club.”
“Our mission was to partner with other schools in the area, particularly Oak Ridge High School, to solve community issues together,” Cameron said.
In their first year, they have organized a coat drive and put together 50 goodie bags for families at Oak Ridge. Plans for the future include a fundraiser in April for school supplies and planting flowers at Oak Ridge in May.
Phan is also known for participating in many community service projects both in school and outside of school. His involvement includes, but is not limited to, Key Club, Habitat for Humanity, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Base Camp, an organization that helps children fighting cancer.
“When serving others, you’re not only helping those around you, but you’re able to learn a lot about yourself and grow into a well-rounded individual,” Phan said.
On the weekend of Apr. 11-12, Phan had the opportunity to join math teacher Lynn Wilbur, science teacher Aaron Ashworth and art teacher Kimberly Moreland-Garnett along with eight Builder’s Club members at a leadership convention with over 2000 schools from all over Florida in attendance.
“These students were passionate about serving others, and their energy and enthusiasm toward community service was contagious,” Phan said. “They exemplified Key Club’s motto: ‘Caring: Our Way of Life’.”
Clearly, the passion that Trinity students have for helping others is not at all manufactured.
“I would consider community service to be one of the most important aspects of my life,” Cameron said. “Finding [an activity] that you’re passionate about and inspires you can truly change your life and give you an enhanced perspective of the world. If you go through life only living for yourself, I think it’s near impossible to find the kind of happiness you can find from serving other people.”
Volunteering in their free time during which they could be binge-watching Netflix Cameron, Callan and Phan dedicate those hours to helping the community. Although there is the notion of helping others just to pad a resume, Trinity students show that there are people who still genuinely care about helping others and the intangible reward of seeing people smile that comes along with it.
“I don’t think that the true meaning of community service has been lost,” Callan said. “I think that there will still be people who genuinely like helping others.”