Sebastian Rubino / [email protected]
The Ridgefield School District recently unveiled a new community service program, which will be used as a reward for graduate students who qualify.
Joseph Vance, president of the Ridgefield School Board, said historically a certain number of volunteer hours were part of the graduation requirement for seniors.
“The thought process was that mandatory volunteer hours aren’t really volunteering, so we had concerns about being obligated to volunteer,” Vance said. “Plus, it could have become a stumbling block for graduation.”
Vance said he didn’t see any students failing to graduate because they didn’t complete the mandatory volunteer hours, but said the requirement shouldn’t be a barrier for students. Instead of imposing volunteer hours, Vance said the council found a way to encourage students to give back by recognizing those who have given a certain number of volunteer hours during their high school careers. Students who do so will be recognized upon graduation.
Vance hopes there will be a lot of student participation.
To qualify for recognition, seniors who graduate in 2022 must complete at least 36 hours of community service, the class of 2023 must have 72 hours, the class of 2024 needs 108, and students in the class of 2025 must have at least 144 community hours of service, according to a press release from the Ridgefield School District.
The program was created by the school administration, but was approved by the school board, Vance said.
“They created it as a recommendation of the board of directors,” he said.
When the number of volunteer hours is successfully completed, students will be awarded a diploma with a special “community service” seal to recognize students who have voluntarily given time to commendable efforts in the community, according to the release.
Vance hopes this effort will create a stronger community.
“The Ridgefield School District Board of Directors is grateful to be part of a service-oriented community with students who care deeply about making a difference,” Vance said in the release. “The Seal of Community Service program allows us to recognize and encourage their efforts and honor those who have given up for the betterment of the Ridgefield community. ”
According to the statement, volunteer hours will be recorded in an official “community service journal” and verified by a member of school staff. Examples of eligible activities include attending Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H, Key Club, and volunteering at a local church. Students can also attend events like a marathon walk or jump rope for the heart.
Other things that would be eligible are personal projects that help particular members of the community. An example of this would be helping an elderly or disabled person who is not related to the student with household chores, helping the elderly in a nursing home or similar facility, volunteering in a library or hospital, or tutoring younger students on a regular basis, the release says.
Services that would not qualify for the Seal include serving as a teacher’s aide during school, participating in political organizations or campaigns, or being part of a school group, choir, or a sports team or a dramatic production. Community service ordered by the court does not count either, the statement said.