by India Reynolds ‘20
Our “obligation to make a difference in the world” through service is one of the NCS core values. The community and in-school service requirements were established to help better connect students to the community and foster a lifestyle of giving back. The benefits of a community service requirement are hardly debatable, and students nearly universally support the requirement. However, the in-school service requirement tends to face resentment by some students who struggle to see the benefits.
Students completing in-school service projects often remark on the seeming futility of the work and lament feeling they have not made a difference in the community. On the NCS website, there is a list where teachers can post if they would like for students to come in and help. While this provides an opportunity for a student to connect with a teacher, often students end up grading other students’ work or doing menial jobs around the classroom. Students tend to feel like the work they are doing for the teachers is similar to the tasks students perform for detention. This makes the in-school service feel more like a chore, rather than giving back to the NCS community.
There are, of course, other options through which students can complete their in-school service hours where the work feels meaningful. Many students apply to be student ambassadors, giving tours to prospective NCS families. These tours allow students to share their personal stories with prospective families; thus fostering a sense of community because the students are able to share their own experiences at NCS and everything that they love about the school. Another way that many students receive in-school service hours is by working at the book sale which takes place during Flower Mart. The book sale is NCS’s vendor contribution to the event. By having students work at the tent as an option for in-school service, there is a stronger feeling of giving back to the NCS community because students are essential to helping sell books.
While it is certainly important to give back to our NCS community, it is important to begin a constructive dialogue as to how we can make the in-school service requirement more effective, meaningful and less chore-like. Maybe one of the ways to solve this problem would be to have a list of all of the different activities students could complete for in-school service hours instead of just the contact information for the teachers. This way, students could select the in-school service opportunities which are most appealing and which help feel like they are indeed contributing to the greater good and responding with purpose to the needs of others.