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Sept. 17, 2015

The contradiction that is mandatory volunteer work

by Lauren Frost, Online Entertainment Editor
There is no denying that volunteering is some of the most important work that is done in a community. Ideally, completing volunteer work will help students to develop a bond with the community in which they spend much of their time living and learning. It also teaches students important values such as the value of giving back, respect for the community, and ultimately aims to set students up for a life long love of volunteer work. But mandatory volunteer work is different. Volunteer work implies a service that is done through the goodness of one's heart in order to give back to the community but mandatory turns it into something that must be done--or else.
High school students volunteer at a local soup kitchen Courtesy of ABC
High school students volunteer at a local soup kitchen

Montgomery County as well as the state of Maryland requires students to complete 75 Student Service Learning hours in order to graduate from high school. According to Montgomery County Public Schools the intention of completing SSL hours is to provide students with “knowledge, skills, attitudes, and career exploration opportunities that lead to effective citizenship in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.”
While the intentions of MCPS are to aid the student and the community, forcing students to complete volunteer hours may teach students who are not already inclined to volunteer to do good work for the wrong reasons. It also removes the passion that is needed to have meaningful experiences while volunteering. While the intentions of mandatory student service learning hours are good, in many cases volunteer work becomes a tedious undertaking devoid of passion that makes volunteer hours a worthwhile use of time.

Volunteer workers are passionate about the work that they do in their community. It is one of the reasons that volunteering is worthwhile. These people care about an issue and aspire to make to make a lasting change in the community. Making volunteer work mandatory leads students to complete their hours in where they have no interest. Which makes completing volunteer work, which should be fulfilling, completely uninteresting and tedious. Students who find volunteer opportunities that they genuinely want to partake in will be the ones who will continue to volunteer throughout their life because of their positive experience. When the county pushes people towards competing volunteer work students see it as a homework-like task instead of more like an extracurricular, which they enjoy.

MCPS also places restrictions on what work students can be credited for. These restrictions can cause students who may be doing work that is meaningful to them at an unapproved locations to stop doing work that they enjoy in order to complete their hours. Some students choose to do volunteer work at places that are affiliated with their religious beliefs such as churches. MCPS is not allowed to accept some hours that are affiliated with religion so any contribution that is secular cannot count towards a student’s SSL requirement. There are also some organizations that are not pre-approved by the county, and students complete hours in these places only to find that their hours are unapproved and will not count towards the requirement.

Instead of forcing students to volunteer, schools could bring in organizations that represent different places to work to present what type of work they do. Interested students could work with the organizations in school as an extracurricular-type activity and if they feel as if they want to have more involvement in the organizations they can begin to volunteer outside of the school. This would allow students to get a feel for an organization before they begin working there. It would also give them a better chance of finding a cause they truly care about because they would be able to view many different organizations.

Volunteer hours should be important to the student, not something that they complete only to fill the requirements set by the county. Many students do the bare minimum required to graduate and many students wrack up meaningless SSL hours only to try and impress colleges and scholarships boards. Students who are not pushed towards completing hours will find bigger and better meaning in the volunteer work that they complete. Montgomery County should not require students to do volunteer hours but should instead encourage and aid students in finding organizations and causes that they are passionate about and want to make a change in.





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