The Importance of Community Service by Dana Larson, Director of the Upper School
The Meadows Upper School requires that a student fulfill 144 hours of active community service during the four years prior to graduation. According to our Student/Parent Handbook, the purpose of this is to “give students an opportunity to acquire a greater sense of self and community,” but I pause to wonder, what does this mean and what do our students really get out of this type of service?
“In a culture that is so wrapped around ‘wants’ and ‘achievements,’ it is easy for our teenagers to grow up without a sense of gratitude for what they have and empathy for the needs of the less fortunate around them. Volunteering in community service projects and helping others can be very fulfilling, and if you can show your teen how enriching it is from a young age, they’ll start to make an association between helping someone else and their own joy.”
When I think of what constitutes a Meadows student, one characteristic that stands out, hands down, is “driven.” Our students are dedicated to their education and to their personal success. And, one thing I recognize is that our students are as busy as many fulltime employed adults. As a parent, one thing I lament is that my children are not able to be employed in jobs outside of school during the school year. Harkening back to my teenage years, I credit the various jobs I held outside of school as being very influential to my level of maturity as well as to my understanding of how the world really was, and I worry that our students might be missing out on something.
Here at The Meadows School, we provide a myriad of service opportunities throughout the year. For example, our students participated in various events during the fall semester, from National Honor Society partnering with Miracle League to play baseball with adults and children living with mental and physical disabilities, to our Young Conservatives going door to door registering voters.
However, one thing I have learned through my observations of students here at The Meadows who participate in sports is that their experiences are very similar to employment – they have to show up, be on time, deal with adversity, work in cooperation with others, dedicate personal time, revel in their successes, and learn from their failures. What I have come to understand, though, is that there is another significant way from which students can grow through these types of experiences: community service. What students have the potential to get out of active community service can surpass that of athletics or even outside employment. At a school like The Meadows, it is understandable that students get wrapped up in “my schedule, my homework, my exams, my grades, my college list…” and can lose sight of the world beyond themselves. According to Dr. Shobha Bhaskar, from St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine,
Further, our Spanish Honor Society collected clothing for the families of Roundy Elementary (a CCSD Title One school), after learning that, for example, some of their students were going home for winter break “with only one pair of underwear and socks,” according to member, Rachel S. The Women’s Empowerment Club and Key Club have both volunteered at Shade Tree, an organization that helps provide meals to women and children who have been displaced from their homes, usually due to situations involving domestic violence. WEMP advisor, Dr. Slater, describes that even during the drive down to Shade Tree, our students are exposed to “streets lined with the tents of Las Vegas’ homeless population,” showing them just how “tenuous life can be and how much volunteering is really needed.” Key Club advisor, Ms. Bartley, states that the experience for her group was “a humbling one, and I think it was eye-opening even for those who had volunteered in shelters before.” Despite the fact that these women and children were going through a very tough time, according to Bartley, they were “thankful for what they did have and most had a very positive attitude, which was a good reminder for us to appreciate the opportunities and the people we have in our own lives.”
Above: The National Art Honor Society and heART Club members spent the afternoon painting picture frames with Atria Seville residents
Community Service Edition