Sue Kiesewetter reports:
Kings High School students will soon have to complete fewer service hours to graduate.
But at least half of the 50 hours – reduced from 75 hours now required – must be done outside of school sponsored activities.
The changes are taking effect beginning with the Class of 2016 – this year’s incoming sophomores.
“Anytime you have a program like this, the best thing to do is to (periodically) reflect and see if there’s any way to have it serve kids better,’’ said Doug Mader, high school principal.
“We think it will be more of a lasting experience for the kids by having them go out into the community and have more meaningful community service experiences.”
Under new guidelines approved by the board of education, students can’t begin earning hours until the summer between eighth and ninth grade. Service must be completed by the end of the first semester of the student’s senior year.
A two-page document provides guidelines to students and their families on activities that do and those that don’t qualify as service hours to meet the graduation requirement.
Work students do to fundraise for a school group they participate in won’t qualify. But school-related activities not related to a sports team or club the student belongs to, would count.
“We want the kids to give back to their community – not just the four walls of Kings High School,’’ Mader said.
Tutoring, providing foreign language instruction to elementary students, or volunteering at a Kids Club are all examples of activities within the schools that would qualify toward community service hours.
Non-school related volunteer work that would qualify could be done for non-profit groups – such as the American Red Cross or Big Brothers/Sisters – along with churches, hospitals or nursing homes.
The changes were prompted in part, educators said, because of responses educators heard during the senior reflection presentations.
“More and more kids are saying, Now that I’ve been through this, I wish I had gone out more,’” Mader said.
Others saw that some students were going through the motions to fulfill the graduation requirement but weren’t benefitting much from the experience.
“Over the past six years, we noticed that there (was) a widening gap between students who have understood the importance of service and those who have merely ‘checked the box’ in completing their service hours and reflection project,’’ said Heidi Murray, a guidance counselor who oversees the project.
The changes that are being made should address those concerns, said Dawn Gould, district spokeswoman.
Students will still have to present a brief overview of their working during Senior Reflection Night in the spring.
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