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.
The benefits of a community service project extend far beyond the walls of the school. Students who make a commitment to volunteering in their community will gain exposure to people from different cultures, backgrounds and ages. A student who chooses to work with the elderly will gain invaluable life lessons that are learned from sharing time with older generations. Whereas a student who works with someone who is economically less fortunate will gain a better understanding of what it's like to live in poverty.
Service projects help students build character, prompt future community involvement and boost academic achievement.There is also a sense of social resposiblity that is gained from community service projects. Students who learn to give back to their community may feel compelled to continue their project even after they graduate from high school.
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.
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.
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. Recently, this has become an issue in many high schools as students feel the pressure to "beef up" their resume for college. If a student is already maxed out, adding on a required community service project may take time away from their current responsibilities and limit time with family. Some projects require as many as 10 hours per week of time -- and that is unpaid labor. So, for students who need paying jobs, these added hours may present a problem
- University of Rochester: Self Determined: What Motivates You? Karen McCally
- National Institutes of Health: Of Carrots and Sticks: A Review of Deci and Ryans's Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior; Daniel J. Bernstein
- Public School Review: Will Your Child Need to Volunteer to Graduate? Grace Chen
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: Meeting Standards Through Integrated Curriculum; Susan M. Drake and Rebecca C. Burns
- University of Michigan: Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service