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The Good is Outweighed by the Bad, and the Ugly in the World of Teen Community ServiceArticle 1 of 2
Written by Hyoung Seo Shin | Published. 2021.03.13 15:38 | Count : 1745

In today’s teen world of Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, popularity has soared for an unexpected activity: community service. The number of students wanting to serve their communities has jumped, even during the pandemic, with many high school students donating to famous charities or seeking active volunteering opportunities. While there has been a rise in overall positive sentiment regarding young volunteers, some worry that these seemingly altruistic students have less than philanthropic motives. 

Research suggests that community service does play a pivotal role when considering a student’s admission profile. According to a survey by Interactive Educational Systems Design, 58 percent of 264 college admission officers agreed that community service hours had a positive impact on an applicant’s acceptance rate. Furthermore, 53 percent agreed that community service experience acted as the leading tie-breaker for students who were equally qualified, with an even higher (61) percent of admission personnel working at private institutions agreeing to the previous statement. This and many other forms of published date point to the significance of participating in high-school community service hours as the admissions process for top universities become more competitive worldwide.

American adolescents certainly understand and act on the theoretical and supposed benefits of community service. However, as for the question of whether, the obligatory nature of the community service or the underlying motives that volunteers have is, diminishing the true value of such service, I asked some highs school students in Orange County (CA) who were anonymously willing to discuss their volunteering experiences to get an idea of their motivations. 

[Food box packed for low-income citizens that include sufficient amount of soup, rice, pasta, juice, and various canned foods. Photo Credit: Hyoung Seo Shin]

One student who volunteered at Orange County Food Bank said: “I started to volunteer in food drives because of my high school graduation requirements, but it eventually became something that I’m still very proud to have been part of”. To him, it was a worthwhile experience even though his initial reason was an obligation. Another high school junior said “Packing around 500 food boxes with other volunteers for low-income seniors was arduous. It took around 2-3 hours total, without any breaks. But after finishing up, I was filled with a sense of achievement”. Our conversation revealed that while it was initially her parents’ decision to make her participate, the sense of fulfillment she ended up obtaining led her to consistently and willingly get involved in activities by local soup kitchens, regardless of how laborious or time-consuming such activities may be.

[Interviewing Mr. Andre Gaithe (on the left). Photo Credit: Hyoung Seo Shin]

In contrast, some within the service community regard the recent rise in volunteers with pessimism. I arranged an interview with Andre Gaithe, the supervisor of California Orange County Food Bank’s warehouse, who is a long-time volunteer overseer with a decade of experience. Through leading multiple outreaches and activities throughout his career, Mr. Gaithe has met a range of young volunteers and observed the nature of their participation. When asked what mindset teenage volunteers should have and the reason why quality must take precedence over quantity, he responded, “It is true that increased demand for community service experience has increased youth volunteering participation … Although I have worked with several youth volunteers, it was difficult to find high school students who started to volunteer voluntarily.” He also noted that although the importance of community service participation for college admissions has increased the number of volunteers, it ultimately has the adverse effect of regarding community service as a requirement: in other words, a reason that is, lacking in the true spirit of volunteering. Gaithe said, “Conceptualization ability to think broader and think everything about different ideas or viewpoints is significant.” Mr. Gaithe insisted on the importance of having to think deeper, as well as it being crucial to consider every aspect. Essential questions such as “Why are we doing this for the people that need help?” and “How do these services really impact those in need?” were often overlooked, if not considered at all. 

It is undeniable that the motivation and the mindset of volunteers determine the true value of community service rather than involuntary participation. Regardless, there are both pros and cons regarding the increase of high school students participating in community service due to the increased demand for community service hours for either college application or graduation requirements. While getting involved in volunteering at a young age is outstanding, experienced volunteers most likely agree that having the proper mindset for community service is most important of all, that of which is too often ignored and possibly cheapening the true value of volunteering.

Hyoung Seo Shin
10th grade
Fairmont Preparatory Academy

Voluntary vs Requirement : Different Aspects of high School Students Volunteering Experience (Article 2/2)

Hyoung Seo Shin  student_reporter@dherald.com

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