School should offer service-learning time

Editorial Board

Students are required to complete 75 hours of community service before graduation from any Atlanta Public School. However, do graduating seniors actually work in the community for 75 hours, or are they taking advantage of the relaxed requirements?

Flyers from various clubs advertising charity drives for service hours are on the back of the bathroom stalls. Donating cans or books can get a student up to five hours of community service. Teachers also offer to double community service hours at events to encourage students to volunteer. 

What is the point of logging in 75 hours of community service if students are able to gain extra hours for doing less volunteer work? Our school preaches integrity in and out of the classroom, but community service mandates encourage cutting corners. This is not what integrity looks like to us, especially with something as thoughtful as community service.

While this may seem like cheating the system, it is not unreasonable. Community service requirements are often put off, and then when students need to begin focusing on it during junior and senior year, they are already overloaded with school, varsity sports and other extracurricular activities.

The recording of community service has also changed over the years. Hours used to be handwritten on paper, but then switched to GivingPoint and now MobileServe, both of which are electronic. The supervisor of the organization no longer has to sign a hard copy of the student’s community service log. 

The community service requirement is placed on students’ transcripts as half of a class credit, yet no time is allotted in school. We, as the Southerner staff, are not recommending the elimination of the requirement (which Louisiana has done); instead, we want the school to implement more guidance from staff and possibly service-learning classes to ease the difficulty and last-minute scrambling of community service. 

There is a difference between service-learning and community service. Service-learning opportunities or classes combine traditional community service with classroom learning goals, benefiting both the students and the entire community. We feel that offering these specific service-learning classes at school will allow students to not only feel enjoyment from participating in community service, but they will also ease the load for the 75 hour community service scramble that many seniors are trying to reach.

One possibility would be to enlist students in such a class as early as their ninth grade year, so they can learn ways of giving back. Then, they can take that knowledge base to begin building community and citizenship within the Grady cluster.

Carnegie Mellon University education reformer Frank Newman wrote in his seminal Carnegie report, “Higher Education and the American Resurgence”, “If there is a crisis in education in the United States today, it is less that test scores have declined than it is that we have failed to provide the education for citizenship that is still the most important responsibility of the nation’s schools and colleges.” 

At Grady, it is more than our high test scores and strong achievements that make us a special and diverse school. It is ultimately our morality and character that will propel us to success in the real world, and by being fully engaged in every hour of our 75-hour community service requirement, it will inspire us to be better people.