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Mom's Talk: What Has Your RHS Student Gained/Given Through Community Service?

Students learn as well as give through school-mandated community service hours.

Talk about a win-win situation.

Students at are required during their sophomore years to arrange for 25 hours of "community service," and file their completed assignment through their history class.

The projects can vary — contributing hours to a cause such as or donating time to an organization in the township or a nearby community.

This is definitely an arrangment that benefits all. The students learn to give something of themselves to a larger cause — and to realize they are part of a community with many needs. The groups or causes they serve also receive an influx of local volunteers.

The students must have submit their proposed community service project for approval by their teachers, who also have a list of suggestions for those who need help deciding what they want to do.

Sometimes, what begins as a school community service project can take on a life of its own. Last year, students who project found themselves involved way beyond their minimum 25 hours.

More than 50 Ridge students eventually became involved in tutoring at BRICK Avon Academy in Newark last year as a result of an idea initially sparked by the community service requirement. Some said they were drawn to the program because they wanted to make a difference. And some said they found that not only were they bringing about change — but they changed in the process and found a shift in perspective.

“It’s gotten me to think a lot about stereotypes. If you give in to a belief in the stereotypes you might think that the kids in Newark are not as smart as the kids in Basking Ridge, but that’s just not true,” said Alayna Grewal, a junior last year at Ridge.

“Actually what I found is that they are very devoted and they want a better life. One young girl said to me ‘My mom really wants me to do well.’ It made me realize what a strong desire these kids have to change their lives in a positive way,” said Grewal who not only serves as a tutor but has helped with the coordination of the program and began a fundraising effort last year.

Other students logging community service hours also find themselves involved for longer term than planned, even if not on such a dramatic basis. My own son, a sophomore, spends time playing games and keeping company with older residents who are among those requiring more medical care atin Basking Ridge.

It's sometimes a struggle to get him to be a joiner. But he did look forward to doing the project, and it brought out the empathetic side of his personality. He says he intends to continue the visits even after fulfilling his requirement.

The community service hours originally were required for honors history students, but the idea was expanded to all students. It was through the honors history class that my older son, an avid swimmer, assisted swim classes at the and then helped the staff at the Bernardsville Public Library. (Our own library was overbooked with student volunteers.) So a word of thanks to the organizations who spend time coordinating the efforts of student volunteers.

So, what community service project has your student completed in the past? If you have a younger student, are they thinking of how they might want to spend those required hours (or beyond)?

Where do they come up with ideas? Do they talk to friends? Or are they already involved in a cause that can translate into required hours?

Do you think this is a good idea? Has your organization received some benefit from this pool of young volunteers?

And — most of all — what did your student think about the idea of community service?

Did they look forward to it? Resist at first, and then maybe get enthusiastic once they actually began putting in the time?

Do you have any ideas where next year's students might be needed for community service?

Please tell us your ideas in the comments section below.

Which brings us to the mention of the deadline for finishing this year's community service hours. It's May 1 for completing hours and filing the paperwork in class! So get busy if you have a few hours to go!

Linda Sadlouskos April 26, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Jane, I'm so glad to hear that this program led to a lasting interest and contribution to the community. I'm interested in students giving input on what they learned from their community service experience.
art raynes April 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I run the Saturdays in Motion program for kids with autism at the Y. Many of our volunteers start with the program to satisfy the requirement, but end up really enjoying it and getting so much out of it. Some even decide to pursue careers relating to the special needs population. Those who volunteer with us just for the hours don't last too long - too hard.
Abbey Arwady April 27, 2012 at 07:40 PM
We hold a tutoring/homework program at our Y on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm amazed at the bond the high schoolers and their "tut-ees" have each and every week. Just another testament to the fact that teens can make a HUGE difference as long as we believe in them.
Andi Williams April 28, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Well, when you know that, of the more than 1,000 volunteers the Y welcomes through its doors every day, a large chunk of them are youth, it is wonderful! Youth philanthropy is at an all time high and never have it been more apparent than at the program that Art Raynes has run at the Y for 20 years -- Saturdays in Motion -- that offers recreational time to children with autism and their families. These volunteer kids get out of bed on a Saturday morning when ours are slumbering deep. They connect with the participants in a way that is so magical, you have to witness it to appreciate it. And consider this: many of these kids are strong swim team champions and have GPAs most parents would die to brag about. Kids these days - really - aren't they wonderful?!!! Here's an interesting fact -- more than 25% of our volunteers are youth -- many, many of whom are involved in supporting children with special needs. They are an inspiration and role models to us all.
Linda Sadlouskos April 28, 2012 at 03:13 AM
It is inspiring to think that in many cases what kids do as volunteers turns into their choice of a vocation. Certainly this "requirement" offers an opportunity that can be as important as in the classroom, it would seem!

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