Service: Fundamental to Communities, Student Experience

Sayda Morales

All throughout high school I volunteered in various service projects that served the New York City community. Some of these projects helped the elderly, while others helped inner city students like me. No matter the project, I remember feeling so empowered knowing that I had helped improve my community even if all I had done was paint a mural in a school that would bring smiles to the faces who saw it.

But to be honest, I did not get involved in service because I was naturally a good samaritan. No, I got involved in service because I had to: my high school required that each student complete at least 15 hours a year in order to graduate.  With the new HB 1412 bill that was just passed in the state of Washington, community service is now a graduation requirement statewide and will begin with the Class of 2017.

My high school made community service a requirement because they understood the important role that it plays in benefiting the local community and enriching one’s high school experience. Similarly, there are students who are in full support of this bill because they agree that servicing their communities has been fun and empowering for them. On the flip side, there are those who are not in support.

Those who opposed the bill claimed that service should come from a good intention, not because someone was forced to do so. In some ways, that could even be counter productive if a student goes into a service project with a negative attitude and an unwillingness to cooperate, affecting the progress of the project. But that is a risk worth taking.

For the most part, the majority of students when fulfilling the community service requirement will find that they enjoy giving back and being made to feel as if they made a difference. Perhaps like me, high school students will decide to take on service as a passion of theirs and pursue it as they go into college and even for the rest of their lives. But high schools should not be the only years where participation in community service is encouraged – service should be a fundamental component of every level of education.

At Whitman, we do not have a service requirement, but I think we should have more incentives for students to go out serve the Walla Walla community. There should be some way for a student to earn credit if they take part in a program or project on a routinely basis. Service not only benefits a local community, but it also increases a student’s ability to empathize, express compassion, and feel inspired to effect change. This bill is a stepping stone for what soon will hopefully be the norm – service as an integral part of a holistic education experience no matter the age.