The parameters for community service at Foothill are too tight


Community service is seen as a chore to many students because they can’t help where they want to in the community. Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press

Riley Knouse

Community service is seen as a chore to many students because they can't help where they want to in the community. Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press
Community service is seen as a chore to many students because they can’t help where they want to in the community. Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press

When you help your community, you do it because you like to give back to your community, it makes you feel like a good person, or, the most common reason, because you have to complete 75 hours for school in order to graduate from Foothill.

We’re all guilty of this. We prefer to sleep or hang out with our friends more than getting out of our comfort zone.

But, we need community service.

Foothill has a reputation of being religiously neutral by not allowing students to turn in hours for helping their church, although it’s fine as long as the church is helping the greater community. This is understandable considering that Foothill is a public school, and therefore is not allowed to endorse a religion, except for the approved organization Youths With A Mission (YWAM). If you want to get hours for preaching Christianity, this is the service for you.

I fail to understand how this makes sense. Yes, it was ‘grandfathered’ in; when the organization was approved, it was okay, but as the ‘approved’ list (a list of organizations eligible for a Foothill student to get community service hours from) evolved, it just stayed on, being the exception.

If we are serious about being religiously neutral, we should either take this organization off of the ‘approved’ list, or allow all religious volunteer services, whether it be for a church, temple, mosque, or any other place of worship.

With this, Foothill and I start to disagree. I’ve helped with a Vacation Bible School (though not being terribly religious myself), and could not see how that didn’t count as bettering the community. Yes, we were teaching children about God and Christianity, but we were also teaching them good character. The main lesson was to be kind to one another. The same goes for Camp Haverim, a Jewish summer camp that builds character along with learning about Judaism.

Another goal for students to gain through community service is to see what kind of career we might want. Again, this is where Foothill and I disagree.

There are some, but not many, ‘approved’ service opportunities that students see and want to make their career. If you want to be a ballet teacher, preacher, judo instructor, or anything that falls under a business, you won’t be able to get hours volunteering for those organizations, even if they follow code 501 3 c, a code that states that a business is not for profit. The parameters are too tight to fulfill the main goals of community service, which is unfair to the students, and the community. They are excluding other parts of the community in setting a tight set of requirements to be able to perform community service for Foothill.

Yes, it is possible to volunteer for your dance studio, Club sport team, place of worship, or anything else that didn’t make the cut for being Foothill approved. But where’s the time for that? Between homework, sports or other after school activities, and the already required community service, it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll have the time to do any more than the required amount, unless there’s no school that week to worry about.

Helping the community is helping the community, and we shouldn’t have to jump through hoops or be unhappy with what we’re doing just to satisfy our graduation or 10th grade project requirements. Community service is great, and the goals are noble, but all of the limitations are turning what should be a fun and helpful learning experience into a chore, which isn’t the intention of community service.

It’s sad that instead of looking to community service as something to help the community, make yourself feel like a good person, or search for a career, we now view it as just another graduation requirement we have to get out of the way, whether we want to or not, with only a small variety of service that we can do.

But we need community service. We really would be nowhere without volunteers, whether they’re volunteering for personal satisfaction or a signature on a sheet.

It’s great that Foothill requires us to do community service, whether we think so right now or not. We’re being those volunteers that the community so desperately needs, and we’re bettering ourselves as human beings. And if that isn’t enough for you, all of those hours of community service you have on your college application will look really impressive.

Community service is important because our community is so large that we need people to volunteer to get things done. Also, you gain personal growth and a perspective of the community, but that shouldn’t be limited to a list with little variety of services.

What do you think?