High school community service: it’s not serving

Samantha Klein, Staff Writer

From Key Club to church youth groups to National Honor Society, community service is often a time-consuming part of many high schoolers’ lives. Asking a senior if they have enough hours for a graduation cord often results in grumblings and wishing they were done with volunteering. It’s clear that many students feel community service is nothing else but a chore that looks good on college applications. But at least they’re helping people…right?

Intention versus impact is a constant debate when it comes to community service—and for good reason. Serving others is about having a significant positive impact on those that you are helping. Although this is possible when the giver has selfish motives or dislikes what they’re doing, it makes a world of difference when the service comes from pure intentions. 

The intention and passion put behind service is often reflected by the quality and the long-term effects of the work done. Visiting the food bank a couple of times to check a box on your college applications does help people, but happily and consistently volunteering for a long period of time allows you to develop connections and build relationships with frequent visitors. Intent influences impact. 

Additionally, how you choose to spend your time matters more than the amount of time spent. Many activities that students partake in are obvious time-fillers that will be forgotten mere hours after completion. Tasks like those for the sole purpose of getting hours are helpfulbut in the long-term tend to be inconsequential. So, how do you fix this? It’s not like you can flip a switch and suddenly fall in love with community service—that’s just not how it works. What you can do is try to put your efforts toward something you’re passionate about. When you do this, the passion translates to quality service that truly makes a difference.

Do you enjoy working with kids? Try tutoring or hosting a fun activity to help out a family who may need some extra support. Do you love nature? Find an organization that maintains hiking trails or plants trees. And most importantly, stick with it instead of doing a bunch of small things here and there to fill up your log. 

You might not love these acts of service, but chances are you won’t hate them since they relate to something you’re already interested in. And perhaps over time, you’ll fulfill your service hours and realize you don’t want to stop helping your community. Your motivation turns from meeting a requirement, to doing good for your community. Even if you can only contribute a few hours a month, your pure intentions and enthusiasm to help hold immense value when put into practice. There’s no shame in doing service to boost your resume, but a little passion goes a long way.