SSL hours should remain as a graduation requirement

By Jenny Lu

I spent the summer of my freshman year in the mountains of rural China with no running water or technology. My main goal was to complete my 75-hour Student Service Learning requirement to graduate, but I left my trip with a different outlook on life.

Community service allows students to take a break from monotonous schoolwork and try new activities. The requirement forces students to take initiative and responsibility for finding volunteer opportunities at nonprofit organizations in the community or abroad. From cleaning up trash around the neighborhood to going overseas for a service trip, organizations provide a wide variety of MCPS-approved options.

SSL hours should remain as a graduation requirement for Maryland schools, because it guarantees all students an opportunity to try new things and help around the community or even abroad.

Students are able to take part in volunteer programs that allow them to interact with people they wouldn’t normally talk with. I was personally tentative about my month-long service trip to China because I didn’t want to spend so much of my summer volunteering. But living in a poverty-stricken area of rural Gansu and seeing how hard the students there worked to succeed made me take a step back and reassess what was important to me. When summer break ended, I returned with a new perspective on life, new friends and 400 SSL hours.

With the requirement, students have the opportunity to try new things and perhaps develop new interests along the way. Students often view volunteer work as a waste of time, as they would rather have fun with friends, dedicate time to their favorite extracurricular activities or work a job to earn money. So, instead of considering volunteering, many will opt for a paying job when given free time. The 75-hour graduation requirement ensures that all students give volunteering a chance.

Even though 75 hours of community service seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t actually take up that much time. Many students finish their SSL hours in middle school, and even if they don’t, one summer of volunteer work could result in more than enough hours. Due to the short amount of time students must spend to complete the requirement,community service is, at worst, seen as a mild inconvenience.

In exchange for a renewed outlook on life and a sense of responsibility, 75 hours isn’t a hefty price to pay. Considering the amount of time spent in school, there’s no harm in spending a little more and learning something new.