Graduation requirement increased to 75 hours
The class of 2011 and all subsequent classes will be required to complete 75 hours of Student Service Learning (SSL) in order to graduate from high school, according to MCPS. The policy has been implemented state-wide, and was established following a request from Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools.
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) encouraged the request and required that the change be made for all counties in Maryland. Other than the hour requirement, all aspects of the Student Service Learning program will remain the same.
Blair Student Service Learning Coordinator Robert Hopkins expressed his support for the new requirement, which he says was long overdue. "In general, we don't do enough service learning," Hopkins said. "It would be great to see more of an investment on both the student level as well as within the administration."
Hopkins states that despite the lack of emphasis on community service in some MCPS schools, he has seen progress and evidence of increasing community aide participation. For example, the amount of SSL hours a student can earn by serving as a student aide has decreased from 40 to 10.
Though this change will not affect any currently-enrolled Blazers, many students felt strongly about the issue. "I don't really see the point in the increase," said junior Ben Flom. "Everyone has different responsibilities - some people spend hours babysitting their siblings, but they don't get hours for that, whereas someone who does the same thing at a day camp would get those hours."
Hopkins said he would support an hour requirement per year instead of one requirement for all four years of high school. "If you complete all of your hours during one week in ninth grade, you're not taking anything with you and you won't really get anything out of the experience," he stated.
Freshman Emily Hedrick thinks that the change will prove to be generally beneficial for future students. "It's important for us to get involved in the community," she said. "Most students get over 60 hours anyway, so I don't think it should be much of a problem."
Hopkins encourages all students to look at the MCPS website's section for the SSL Program. The site provides information about different activities students can partake in, categorized by both interests and locations.
"This was definitely a necessary change," concludes Hopkins. "We focus so much on discipline, theft, detention, ID issues, but if we had kids that invested in character education, which the SSL program is a part of, I think we'd see all these issues go by the wayside."
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