Some schools are making it mandatory that students take part in and complete a community service project before they are eligible to graduate. A student may be required to complete 40 hours of community service with a government entity or a nonprofit organization to get a diploma. There are certainly benefits to mandatory community service work, but there are also drawbacks.

Pros

The benefits of a community service project include new experiences for the student; exposure to people from different cultures, backgrounds and ages; working in a foreign social setting; and developing an awareness of those who are less fortunate than you are and what their needs are. Service projects help students build character, prompt future community involvement and boost academic achievement.

Cons

The disadvantages of requiring community service projects from each student include the possibility that the pressure that these requirements foist on students may turn them against future service involvement. According to Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan’s cognitive evaluation theory study done in 1985, when students or any individuals perceive that they are being controlled externally, the natural human response is to lose enthusiasm for the project and toward the behaviors that are being promoted. Mandated service-learning requirements may or may not be perceived as external control, but if they are, this perception can alter the student’s desire in the future to continue being socially active. When students are required to participate in community service projects to graduate, some students may not glean social or personal benefits from the program and may find the experience less than fulfilling simply because they were required to do it and not because they wanted to do it.

Real-Life Benefits

Students can benefit from community service learning. One reason schools have introduced this type of program is that volunteer work leads to academic gains. Also, students can apply what they have learned in school to helping other people in real-life situations. Students benefit from exposure to diversity and become more socially and personal responsible when they are involved in community service. Self-esteem and self-worth improve and the students become more politically aware and active. Cognitive skills improve because the students learn problem-solving techniques. Service learning is linked to better scores on state-mandated tests.

Time Constraints

When a student goes to school full time, is involved in extracurricular activities and also works, the time that is needed to participate in a community service project may place quite a burden on the student.