Community Service: A way to build character or a waste of time?

Students are required to complete twenty hours of community service over the course of their four years at EHHS. However, many students may be asking themselves, what is the point? Whether community service serves to show colleges you are involved beyond academic courses, to give you the opportunity to build character and leadership skills, or to positively contribute to your community, what makes volunteering so crucial that it is a graduation requirement?

EHHS’ Point of View

At EHHS, assistant principal Mrs. Susan Harkins seems to be the go-to person for community service: “Many community organizations will reach out to me and let me know of opportunities where they’re looking for student volunteers,” says Harkins, who encourages all students to do more than the minimum of twenty hours. To Mrs. Harkins, community service is very beneficial to build personality skills, leadership abilities, confidence, and even a sense of belonging since it can be a way to make friends with similar interests. However, most importantly she says, “In my opinion, it just makes a person, a student, anyone feel good about themselves that they’re helping someone in need or being a part of an organization that can help people.” She adds that it certainly looks good for college applications, for the workforce, to make connections in the community, and just making contacts with people outside of the school setting for things such as letters of recommendation.

Mrs. Harkins’ biggest advice to students regarding community service is to get it done sooner than the deadline of January senior year. This way it is one less requirement students have to worry about as seniors, and if it something that they are really interested in continuing and pursuing, they can volunteer more hours. Her recommendation is to start in the summer. She said, “The summer is a good time to start because I would image that students have more free time during the summer as compared with the school year when they're involved in their academics, or athletics, or other activities. All those things are very time consuming so the only time students have to volunteer is after school and the weekends.” In addition, she shares that summer opportunities can often continue during the school year.

College Admissions Office’s Point of View

Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions from the University of New Haven, Caitlin Locke, shared some insight on how one’s service hours could potentially affect a college application. In her experience at UNH, Locke said, “We are interested in welcoming well-rounded individuals to our campus community. A big part of college is engaging in the university through clubs and organizations, and many of our clubs include opportunities to serve the community as part of their day-to-day agenda. We love to meet students who we can see joining our clubs and organizations, as those are the ones that will make a lasting impact on our campus community.” Although one’s service hours are not a defining factor on an application, it is positive to include and can be a great topic of conversation when doing an admissions interview. Locke said, “It’s important to be involved, as so much of your college experience happens outside of the classroom through clubs and organizations. Students already involved in community service will hopefully continue to do so at the college level.”

Locke encourages students to focus less on the number of hours and more on finding something they are passionate about because it shows when they are committed to their cause. In conclusion, her biggest advice to potential applicants is, “While it might be a school requirement, try not to simply do community service to check it off of a list. Try to make an experience of it, and choose opportunities that you might be more passionate about.” She suggests to volunteer for an organization that coincides with what you want to do in life; for example, if you wish to be a veterinarian maybe volunteer at an animal shelter. Her reasoning behind this is, “Hopefully that will not only be a fun way for you to complete your hours but will help you to share your passion in your application! Plus, experiences like that may help you to determine if that’s truly the career path you want to pursue.”

Student’s Point of View

Many seniors seem to have already completed their required twenty hours and more. Senior Megan Roberts has completed a whopping 147 hours since her freshman year. “Volunteering was very beneficial because I learned how to work better with children and gained leadership skills,” said Megan. She also shared that she continues to do service despite already meeting the requirements because it makes her feel good giving back to the community. On the other hand, many seniors have not completed their hours yet. Senior Gary Milone, who only has eight hours completed, shared that the main reason he has not completed the hours is that he procrastinates everything and has been too lazy to get them done. However, he also said, “Besides [community service] being a graduation requirement, I see no benefits in volunteering.”

Where to Find Community Service Opportunities

There are two community service boards located in the school: one outside of Mrs. Harkin’s office and one in the guidance office. If you need help finding service opportunities you can contact Mrs. Harkins or your guidance counselor. In addition, the morning announcements and Principal Mr. Vincent DeNuzzo’s weekly blast phone calls often highlight upcoming community service events. Some current organizations that are looking for volunteers include: the East Haven Italian American Club, Mr. Miles, and Deer Run School.