One of the main goals of schools today is to turn out productive, successful members of society; kids that will one day be leaders of our country, states, cities, or neighborhoods. Whether our youth become actors, athletes, lawyers, doctors, electricians, plumbers, or policemen, they will influence society as a whole and lead others by example. Atlanta Public Schools are trying their hardest to give students not only an academic education, but an education that also includes community service – giving to others by doing for others who cannot do for themselves. Atlanta Schools – particularly high schools – are requiring students to participate in community service projects as part of their education. Today’s generation of Atlanta Schools students, known as “Generation Me”, are learning the value of helping others.
A recent study conducted by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement showed that 80 – 85% of incoming college freshmen have community service experience prior to starting their higher education. That’s a 66% increase over the previous study completed in 1989. Mark Lopez, the center’s research director says the increase can be interpreted to mean that students are being exposed to charities and nonprofit organizations at a younger age than they once were. Atlanta Schools seem to acknowledge this, and are pushing for their students to get more involved in community service projects, whether it’s a day or two working in a soup kitchen, reading to the blind, or becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. The options are nearly endless, and need only to be matched to an Atlanta Schools student’s interests.
For some, more stringent college admissions standards have helped motivate Atlanta Schools students to get out there and volunteer. Not only do admissions officials expect community service hours from prospective Atlanta Schools students, many colleges and universities require volunteer hours before students can receive their diplomas.
While some naysayers question the value of “mandatory volunteering” I view it more as an introduction to service. In order for Atlanta Schools to produce citizens fully capable of contributing to our society, an appreciation of the value of service to others is a must.
All of these experiences are indeed valuable, and some would argue are invaluable for students, like the ones attending Atlanta Schools, to acquire. As they mature, teens develop their creativity, problem solving skills and general abilities. The evolution of these areas enables them to see great success in their volunteer experiences.
Atlanta Schools students, through the valuable experiences of volunteering for various community service projects, will discover what it means to be an active part of their communities, and most importantly, that they are capable of producing big change.