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Doing time

Service hours might seem like punishment at first, but they can be time well spent

Service hours might seem like punishment at first, but they can be time well spent

July 12, 2005|by MORGAN FAHEY

Service hours.

Two words describe the feelings associated with the necessity of finding and performing service hours: Major pain!

With homework, extracurricular activities, jobs, and the million other obligations teenagers have to worry about, why do we have to bother with service hours?

Chances are you have wondered that question before. Some local teens were willing to give their opinions on the matter.

Erica Dimercurio, 15, and Ryan Beachley, 17, both of Hagerstown, pointed out the benefits of volunteering.

"It gets kids involved. It gets us, overall, active in our community. (Doing service hours) exposes us to things in the community that we wouldn't necessarily get involved with," Dimercurio said. "We have a lot of energy that we can use to help others instead of using it on ourselves."

"I feel it's good, because it prepares us for real life and working with the community," Beachley said.

Some local teens see the good in doing community service but don't agree with it being a requirement.

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"I feel it's nice for teens to serve their community, but I don't think it should be a requirement to graduate high school," said Colleen Haywood, 15, of Hagerstown.

Others might feel that the requirement is simply too large an amount to fulfill.

"We should have (service hours), but we shouldn't have to do so many. Seventy-five hours are hard to get," Ben Forsythe, 15, of Hagerstown said.

Private schools


Maryland is the only state with service-hour requirements.

Students at Saint Maria Goretti High School face much the same procedure as public school students. They must complete 25 hours each year, a total of 100 hours by the end of their senior year. These hours can be accumulated during the school year or summer.

There is an incentive for Goretti students to volunteer more than the minimum number of hours per year. Students who volunteer 85 hours by the beginning of their senior year are excused from volunteering the remaining 15 hours.

Jay Heefner, guidance counselor at Saint Maria Goretti, emphasized that the number hours spent volunteering is not as important as having students learn the value of volunteering in the community.

"If you look at the school philosophy, ... my guess would be that 100 is just an arbitrary number, chosen because this is such a major part of our curriculum," Heefner said. "We feel that community service is important to becoming an adult in the community."

Students who transfer from public school to Goretti may transfer hours with them.

Life after high school


OK, so now you know: Service hours are a must for high school. But do they have any benefits after high school?

Yes, according to Sharron Chirgott, who directs the volunteer service program for the Washington County Board of Education.

Colleges consider volunteer hours when a student applies. In fact, 69 percent of colleges offer credit for volunteer service hours, she said.

Stephen Neitz, executive director of admissions at Mount Saint Mary's University, says, "As we are reviewing an application, we look at grades, SAT/ACT scores, and personal attributes, which is where service hours come in," Neitz said. "Sometimes these tell us if the students are leaders or not. The primary aspect of our review is grades and courses, but we are certainly interested in how students are involved in their community."

With the growing competition for college placement, don't assume that your service-hour records won't make a difference between acceptance or rejection.

Service hours are an exceptional opportunity to make a difference in your community or in the life of an individual. Sharron Silvers of Western Maryland Hospital praises the student volunteers for their positive effect on patients there.

"They really brighten up patients' lives, while they are around them. Patients don't get out much," she said. "The volunteers take them outdoors, where they can be around nature. This helps in the healing process."

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