The Black & White

SSL hours should remain as a graduation requirement

By Jenny Lu

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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.

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1 Comment

One Response to “SSL hours should remain as a graduation requirement”

  1. Michele N Peake on January 25th, 2018 8:00 am

    I appreciate your view, but not all students in MCPS can afford to spend their summer in the mountains of rural China. A majority of students in MCPS must get their SSL hours in the local area, and many are getting them while holding down jobs that they need to support themselves and/or their families, while also participating in extracurricular activities in hopes of gaining scholarships to help pay for college. SSL is just another burden placed on MCPS and the MD Dept of Education.

    As for completing these hours in MS, many of the rewarding volunteering opportunities do not accept children under the age of 16. Sometimes they will take as young as 14, but in middle school, most of the volunteer hours come from either one-off events or require one of the parents to participate. For those with the means, this is fine, but for those families who do not have personal transportation or whose parent(s) may work weekends or multiple jobs, this is not as simple as you profess it to be.

    What this comes down to is equity. The expectation is a burden on many students, hence the reason 30 hours are built into the middle school curriculum. This is not a “mild inconvenience” to many, it may look that way to those in a community like Whitman with the means to travel overseas to China for the summer, but for those in other communities it is a burden that can conflict with real life.

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