Community service: an opportunity for new experiences

Soup kitchens provide local servicemen and women with warm meals when in need.

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Soup kitchens provide local servicemen and women with warm meals when in need.

Clayton Hedges, Memorial Staff Writer

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High school is a period in everyone’s life where they learn to both mature into young adults and grow as people. Teenagers are impressionable and the experiences gained during this time can leave a lasting impact, because of this community service is a great tool for school systems and educators to use in order to introduce altruistic ideals and a broader perspective on society.

The benefits of community service are not limited to just those in need. There is evidence to suggest that participating in service projects can actually lead to increased levels of  happiness. In a study done by the University of California Davis, 74 preschoolers were given the opportunity to donate tokens to children too sick to be at school; this of course was after they spent hours earning them throughout the day by doing various tasks. Every time someone donated their dopamine levels (chemicals released in the brain that relate to how content or happy one is) would go up.

With the number of high school students increasingly struggling with depression, serving the community would be a great way for them to not only heal and try and increase their overall state of mind.

Participating in volunteering projects can lead to teenagers reaching outside their comfort zone, improving their self image and provide them with a different social experience. Regardless of the benefits, introducing this concept to teenagers is not as easy as it might seem.

From 1995 until 2005 there was a steady increase in volunteering among high schoolers that peaked at slightly above 28 percent student participation. This number has recently dropped to 25 percent and may in part be due to the fact that the number of active high school students has risen over this span of time (1995-2019).

However, during the 1990s and early 2000s, many school districts had mandatory volunteer hours that needed to be completed by students in order to receive their diploma. Mandatory hours along with a higher emphasis on volunteering in other school districts could contribute to the fall in percentage of service hours among modern teens.

Forcing participation was an inefficient method because the total number of hours was hard to complete for students that participated in multiple extracurricular activities and this was eventually taken out of most schools. Seeing the amount of opportunities presented to this generation, whether forced upon them or not, leads to another explanation of the decline in volunteering amongst teenagers.

The Corporation for National and Community Service spent a decade gathering data on the number of volunteers from ages 12 to 18 and found that an astounding 55 percent of teens would commit to a volunteer project if it was presented to them, providing evidence to suggest that the decline in service might be due to a lack of opportunities given to students. In this same study, it was found that 74 percent of those who volunteered during that 10 year span did so through 4H programs, churches or Scout organizations.

If schools were to partner with one of the many non-profits whether local or national, include some sort of philanprothy week at their school or simply provide information to students on volunteer opportunities, teenagers would be provided with rare opportunities to better themselves and their local communities as well as gain life experiences that could impact them for many years to come.

If interested in volunteering, visit the Regional Food Bank, the Boys and Girls Club or the Bella Foundation

Contact Clayton Hedges at [email protected]

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