When schools and clubs require a certain number
of volunteer hours, is it still service?
Volunteering is, by definition, doing something for others for no personal gain. However, it comes with the connotation of helping others because you want to do it. Because you love the feeling of helping others and seeing the look on their face when you make a positive impact on their lives. Helping others is supposed to be about the rush that comes along with bettering the lives of the less fortunate. So when schools and clubs start to require or at least Strongly Recommend a certain number of volunteer hours, is it still service?
One could argue that requiring service hours for things like National Honor Society is our public school system’s way of trying to teach us the concept of altruism. That they are trying to teach us about service now so that we can carry that value on later in life when we are on our own in the world. Instilling values in us now so that we continue them later in life and, eventually, instill them in our own children. We can document our service hours and get a special recognition on our diploma, telling colleges that we value the communities we are a part of and wish to make them better for everyone.
But doesn’t that special recognition in and of itself disqualify the work as service? If the work is only done to make college applications look better, that is most certainly personal gain. It might not be the same as or as obvious as money changing hands, but something is still to be received. It is not that the work is bad and no longer beneficial, just that it is harder to call it strictly volunteer work. The work is no longer being done for selfless reasons, and therefore the morals trying to be instilled are not actually present.
This is not to say that the work done through these groups is any less valuable, just that labeling it as volunteering is a misnomer. To put this work on the same level as that of those who dedicate their lives to volunteering demeans the value of the work done by those people. Countless people chose to give their time and resources selflessly without getting anything in return. And we shouldn’t demean their sacrifices and hard work by equating it to work done primarily to build a well-rounded college application.