Keep it 100: why I’m all for mandatory community service

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Anna Arnsberger

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“Volunteering is a great way to get involved!” “It builds character!” “Give back to the community that raised you!” I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. The cliché reasons to complete community service go in one ear and out the other, and you still have no inclination to partake in such activities. However, as much as Wilson’s 100 required community service hours may seem like a pointless timesuck, they’re not unjustified.

First and foremost, community service can be fun. It isn’t all picking up trash and cleaning up parks (though if picking up trash is what you want to do, kudos). There are opportunities to gain community service hours by doing activities catered to your own interests. Athletes can become counselors at sports camps, animal-lovers can help out in shelters, and activists can volunteer with organizations in support of the issues they care about. You can work together with friends, and even make new ones. There’s something about being productive and helping others that truly puts you in a good mood.

And while tired and trite, the traditional arguments for community service aren’t misguided. Volunteerism is an opportunity to get out and help the world in some way or another. Community service promotes ethics and responsibility, characteristics that are important for success in the future. Everyone should have some experience doing work for the sake of making a difference, rather than just being paid.

In addition to improving your integrity, participating in community service prepares you for the real world. It provides you with experiences similar to having real jobs. In order to gain community service hours, you are required to go out of your way to find opportunities for yourself. For many, volunteering is the first time they have to do work outside of the house or school. This serves as good practice for getting a job.

But if character-building and helping others isn’t really your thing, there’s always the less altruistic reason that doing community service simply makes you look good. No matter what you plan on doing after high school, having experience with community service under your belt is guaranteed to set you up with opportunities. Slapping 100 hours of volunteering on your work resume or college application will surely give you an edge in getting a job or being accepted by your dream school. Misleading as it may be, saying you do community service will allow employers and admissions officers to look at you as a virtuous hard worker.

I know firsthand how busy high school students can be, and between homework, sports, jobs, and other activities, 100 hours of volunteer work can seem like a daunting impracticality. However, it only takes two hours out of every month to stay on track with this requirement. So groan all you want at having to complete community service hours before graduation, but the countless benefits that come with this rule clearly outweigh its inconvenience. •