Make Volunteer Efforts Part Of Students' Courses

December 08, 1991|By THEODORE SOPHOCLEUS

Community service by high school seniors. What a great concept!

New? I can only say that in 1957, the seniors at Patterson Park High School in Baltimore were participating in a community service project as part of the civics course in the senior year. Each student was required to volunteer his or her services to a non-profit organization from February through June. The selection was made by the student after visiting many non-profit groups from September through February. Instead of attending the civics class in the spring, the student went to his or her respective organization to volunteer.

The students who participated were only those enrolled in the civics course; other students were not required to participate. Of course, all students in the "academic" courses had to take civics. There was no choice or option.

Times have changed, but the concept of community service is still an important aspect of everyone's education. I do not know if a mandatory program will be effective. Who will develop the areas to be assisted? What organizations will be approved? How much lee-way will the student have in selecting the area in which they wish to volunteer?

The most pressing issues will be how to monitor the program and how to provide the necessary time from school activities to assure compliance.

Community service is the realization that people must give something back to their communities or risk the possibility of losing the very essence of their lives.

Can it be made mandatory? I think not. Can it be delivered through the schoolsystem? I believe -- no, I know -- it can. I know the programs and courses in our educational system can be developed to allow all students to participate if they wish to volunteer. Make volunteering part of a course or courses, and allow students to migrate to those coursesfreely. The decision to participate in community service must be made by the volunteer. Once the decision is made to "give something back," create the mechanism for all to participate.

I have found our young people to be profoundly interested in their communities and verywilling to help. However, they must be treated as equal partners in the programs in which they choose to participate.

Now that we haveour children working toward community service, can we also interest a few more adults? We need all the help we can get!

Editor's note:Ted Sophocleus, a Linthicum Democrat, served on the County Council and ran unsuccessfully for county executive.

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