For many Md. students, service hours provide fulfillment and happiness May graduations depend on finishing requirement

March 02, 1997|By Janelle Erlichman | Janelle Erlichman,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

Five hundred hours. More than 800 hours. More than 1,000 hours.

These are some of the totals that individual students in Maryland have reached in meeting their service learning requirement -- well in excess of the 45 to 75 hours required.

Educators' attention was focused last week on the nearly 400 members of the Class of 1997 who may not graduate for lack of volunteer hours, but some standouts are at the other end of the service learning spectrum.

These students -- in every grade and county -- volunteer not for recognition but because they like what they do. Helpings others gives them a good feeling. It makes them happy.

Brian Grim, 17, may be typical.

The senior at Fort Hill High School in Cumberland volunteers at Rocky Gap State Park, building picnic tables, manning the entrance, greeting visitors and working at special events.

Brian took a special interest in the park near his home -- working on weekends, after school and during the summer.

"I am just about there all the time," he said.

He started six years ago, but recorded his time only for the past four. Once he hit his requirement, "I turned my hours in and kept going. I enjoy volunteer work," he said.

Brian is one of 43,148 Maryland students whose May graduations will depend on the service learning requirement. They are the first class in the United States to be held to a statewide standard.

The Maryland State Department of Education regards service learning as a method of experimental learning.

By participating, officials say, students study their communities, identify problems and devise solutions.

tTC The program has been controversial. Critics have tried to kill it in the General Assembly, arguing that it amounts to volunteer slavery, that students should spend more time in the classroom, and that students get credit for frivolous activities.

As of Feb. 15, almost 35,000 students had met requirements, while 1,800 had completed 75 percent of their hours.

Tiffany Butcher played a part in helping those student complete service hours.

Tiffany, 18, is a senior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. She is the student member of the Maryland State Board of Education.

Last year, she founded her school's Community Service Group, through which students earned nearly 3,000 hours. She recruits, trains and supervises project managers for various projects, thereby earning even more hours.

Susanne Adkins, 17, runs a produce stand with her brother every summer. They sell squash, melons and corn from their family's farm in Parsonsburg. And every week they take the extra vegetables to a local shelter and distribute them.

A senior at Parkside High School in Salisbury, Susanne also has worked in her school's office, tutors fellow students through her school's chapter of the National Honor Society, and is a 4-H Club member.

She is not sure of her total hours -- only that she is "way over" the requirement.

Francis Guns III knows his total: 1,090 hours.

The 17-year-old Perryville High School senior is den chief for a Cecil County Cub Scout Pack, helping to organize meetings and activities for younger boys. He has also spent holidays at Perry Point Hospital for the past few years. When his grandmother became ill, Francis helped the visiting nurse with her care and then began helping other patients.

Francis said he thinks the requirement is a good one. He is considering a career in nursing.

In Calvert County, Kevin Oxendine, 16, has completed more than 1,000 hours in service learning.

The junior at Northern High School in Owings said his activities range from serving as treasurer for the Maryland Association of Student Councils to membership on the Governor's Commission Service.

"I try to make a difference and take the initiative to try to change -- make things better than they were when I came here," said Kevin, who lives in Dunkirk.

At another Northern High School -- this one in the Garrett County town of Accident -- Jason Hull just "wanted to be the best."

Jason, 18, said he believes his "several thousand" hours are more than any of his classmates.

The senior volunteers for the Northern Garrett Rescue Squad and Deep Creek Volunteer Fire Department. He also is a certified emergency medical technician, firefighter and rescue technician. He has no sympathy for those who grumble about the required hours.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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