Service should begin locally

Lauren Jung

As the back-to-school hype dies down, the ever-crowded calendar of the typical high school students is filled with classes, college application deadlines, homework and tests. But don’t forget to pen in the 100 hours of community service graduation requirement.
Rather, highlight it.

Community service, in the words of Sacred Heart Goal Three, is “to instill in each student lifelong commitment to serving her community both locally and globally.”

Lifelong — that’s how community service should be. However, some public and private high school students with community service graduation requirements are dropping a couple thousand dollars to travel to another country for a week or two to just get the hours over and done.

A friend gave me a call on my birthday, wishing me a happy b-day as well as updating me on her latest status — in Mexico. She wasn’t there for vacation or to visit family. She was spending a week of her summer there to build houses for people in need.

But that makes me wonder if my friend will continue to volunteer once she has finished her trip to Mexico.

Shopping around for a community service opportunity to round out a graduation requirement or to “complete” a college application does not instill a “lifelong commitment.” It’s almost impossible to stay actively involved in and committed to a community that’s thousands of miles from our own. There are many ways to get involved with the local community. Serving lunches at Glide Memorial Church, volunteering at the local homeless shelters, and cooking meals at Ronald McDonald House.

Our generation has been labeled the vain generation, maybe because we have over a hundred Facebook photos of ourselves, so by volunteering from the heart, we can prove that label wrong.
In the meantime, community service hour requirements are great for people who wouldn’t normally actively help in the community. If spending $3000 to dig latrines in a developing country opens a person’s heart and mind to commitment toward the betterment of humanity through service, then that’s great.

Our world is increasingly becoming a global community, and traveling abroad to perform community service in another country may give a student a more global perspective, but we have to remember that our social responsibility isn’t done once we leave the country to which we have traveled. There are still so many opportunities to make our own local communities a better place. We can’t make the world a better place if we aren’t tending to our own backyards.

Primatologist Jane Goodall once said, “We have the choice to use the gift of our lives to make the world a better place.” As our school year is just starting, let’s put our gift of service to good use. Look for ways to help in our own local community. Don’t volunteer just to fulfill a graduation requirement or just to get into college.

Do it for others.

Do it because you care.

Do it because you want to make our local community, our world a better place.