Many high school programs incorporate community service projects within their curriculum. More and more high schools are relying on these types of activities to add a hands-on look at the outside world. Clonlara School is no different, although we have made it a requirement and started doing community service at the inception of our high school program in 1983. Per Pat Montgomery, our founder, “It has always been a part of both the campus and the home based curriculum for older kids.” Each high school head teacher has run the program differently. Currently students have to meet a 45 hour, per year, requirement. During the year we do several things as a group, and then students will supplement their hours by doing service within the community that they have arranged on their own. So far in this school year our students have worked at Sunseed Farm, which is a local CSA farm and they have participated in Operation Good Cheer. Independently we have students who volunteer at PetCo, a local public school library, in their places of worship, various other places and work on project right here that benefit our school.
Pictures of our students in action at Operation Good Cheer:
One parent spoke about the value of students doing community service activities versus participating in food drives or collection activities. Not that she thought those activities didn’t have merit, but she felt that the students getting out in the community really opens their eyes to what others face, while they are living a life filled with cell phones, game consoles and rides to and from school daily. Plus she felt the value when they are actually doing the work versus a parent buying a bag a groceries for the student to donate was of greater value. Thankfully, this parent is very active in helping our teachers arrange different activities for our students to participate in.
Edutopia thought the question of community service being a part of high school was a valuable enough question to ask – http://www.edutopia.org/poll-schools-require-community-service. It seems, as of this writing, that 44% of respondents (out of over 1600) felt there was value in a high school incorporating community service. There is strong evidence that community service for students is valuable. We see some of those benefit here in our building when our students return with smiles on their faces and pride in their steps. They indeed do feel good about themselves and the work they have given – whether it’s from their heart or because we say they have too. Participating in community is a learned skill, and reinforced skill. If we teach students to do and/or reinforce what families are doing in their own way at home, then it begins to be a part of a student’s thinking. Never being exposed the opportunity doesn’t mean students don’t want to or see the value in volunteering, it simply means they may never have been given the chance. And obviously, the benefits are not just for the students.
For over 25 years our high school program has found success in having community service as part of our programs. That will continue and who knows where it may lead one of our young students.