Your gesture of wellness by serving Thanksgiving meals at a homeless shelter doesn’t count. Planning where to do the same for Christmas doesn’t matter either. Volunteering just on Christmas morning because you’re Jewish – ditto. Volunteering three hours a year is not community service, it’s just selfish.
The world is changing in a way that seems to be uncontrollable. Technology has stifled humanity while connecting us to completely impersonal networks. Getting our kids to do a real service at a young age allows them to see that they can be connected to the world without TikTok, Snapchat or Instagram.
And even worse is the inevitable question after my presentation of the Student Success Project: “What is the best community service my child can do for their college application?” “
WE DID THE MARKET
When we had our advertising agency, all employees were required to volunteer – for the company, time and were paid. Thanks to our charitable arm, The Piggy Bank Fund, everyone got eight hours a month to volunteer wherever they wanted. (If they wanted more, we gave it to them – no questions asked.)
So I clearly understand why students are required to do community service. I am not a fan of the mechanism. It needs to be reworked to be what it should be – more meaningful.
Unfortunately, hours of community service can be “found and justified” everywhere. Until me, hours of service would not be granted for refereeing sports of any kind. Being a member of the marching band and playing at halftime doesn’t count. A court cleanup for a court you are playing on – false. Just handing out t-shirts at an event – no way.
Yes, we all know parents and students whose priority is making sure the road to college is paved with as many hours of community service as possible, regardless of whether it even matters.
SEE THROUGH IT
Admissions officials are incredibly savvy at discerning students with genuine dedication to volunteering, as opposed to those who don’t want to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. If not, it might be better not to bother. If a student isn’t really engaged, a college admissions officer knows.
Likewise, these officials become skeptical when they see a candidate who claims a long list of one-off engagements, ranging from fundraisers and car washes to food drives and dances-a-thons.
Instead of showing complete roundness, this type of scattershot volunteer record suggests that the student has no real connection to what they have been doing. The same reasoning holds true for students on expensive community service trips abroad.
YES IT’S IMPORTANT
Now comes the argument – does it really matter why it’s done? Isn’t it enough to volunteer for whatever reason? Some say yes, some say no. Everyone should volunteer because not only is it good for you and your family, but more importantly, it’s good for others.
It’s also great for the almighty GPA. Volunteering can have a huge impact on student numbers without having to take an insurmountable amount of AP or Honors courses. Students who volunteer improved their scores in reading, math, science and history. Additionally, students who volunteer are 19 percent more likely to graduate from college than those who do not.
We need to teach our children that real community hours bring about positive change. It is not a checkbox for a completed task. Volunteering isn’t just about showing up. It’s about what you leave behind.
This column is from Ritchie Lucas, founder of the Student Success Project and Think Factory Consulting. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or by email at [email protected] and on Facebook and You Tube as The Student Success Project.
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