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Volunteering is no longer altruistic

The+holiday+season+is+also+volunteer+season.++Volunteers+help+serve+over+400+meals+at+the+the+Samaritan+House%27s+annual+Thanksgiving+Dinner.
The holiday season is also volunteer season.  Volunteers help serve over 400 meals at the the Samaritan House's annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

The holiday season is also volunteer season. Volunteers help serve over 400 meals at the the Samaritan House's annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

Hanalei Pham

Hanalei Pham

The holiday season is also volunteer season. Volunteers help serve over 400 meals at the the Samaritan House's annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

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“I volunteer to give back to my community” has been said so many times that it’s almost cliché. Volunteering has been around for forever, but there are a myriad of reasons why people volunteer and, as times change, these reasons change as well.

School counselor Ross Yokomura said, “Volunteering is about giving your time to help in the community, and I believe that most students volunteer because they truly want to help out.”

Today, students have increasingly busy lives: more requirements, more clubs, more sports, more music, more languages. Yet, with so many activities and goals to be accomplished, students still find the time to tutor, serve at food banks, and participate in community outreach.

Sophomore Edward Vendrow said, “I volunteer for a few hours every week for an organization called Jewish Family and Children’s Services. The activities range from volunteering in an office to helping out at food banks or comforting kids in hospitals.”

Colleges look for students who give back to their community and invest time in volunteer organizations. Some students volunteer to fulfill high school graduation requirements and earn scholarships.

According to Yokomura, at his previous school district, Oakland Unified School District, there was a 20 hour community service graduation requirement.

School psychologist Elda Aghazarian said, “Though I feel that the intention behind volunteering is more important than the act itself; volunteering is an enriching experience regardless of the intention. I believe that it is a good thing that colleges and high schools are requiring community service hours as it exposes young minds to the less fortunate and allows them to make connections with other people and expand their boundaries.”

However, some people, though not against mandatory volunteering, question the message it sends. Yes, volunteering provides assistance and is beneficial, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

Mark Lawton, during his time as a teacher at Catlin Gable School in Oregon, was in charge of all volunteer activities for the high school students. Lawton said, “Mandating volunteering perpetuates the idea that social issues can be solved by community service. People make the assumption that community service is good because everyone feels good in the end. However, cleaning up the beach doesn’t stop the actual problem, people need to stop littering and serving at soup kitchens does not end homelessness.”

In addition to school requirements, many clubs such as California Scholarship Federation (CSF) and Key Club are either volunteering based or have volunteering requirements. CSF requires nine hours of community service per semester. Key Club International requires members to perform 50 hours of service annually.

Key Club is one of  the oldest and largest service programs for high school students, having approximately 260,000 members in 5,000 clubs in 36 nations, according to the Key Club International website.

Carlmont Key Club does not have requirement that members have to fulfill. However, it is encouraged that members put in 10 hours per semester. Key Club International is partnered with UNICEF, March of Dimes, and Children’s Miracle Network, in addition, students help out at the Second Harvest Food Bank, Barnes and Nobles, and the San Carlos adult community center.

“I have been doing community service since I was a kid. It is a great way for making a difference and giving back to the community, and it gives me a sense of fulfillment,” said Brandon Lee, president of Key Club at Carlmont. Lee volunteered 64 hours spring semester of 2015.

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Volunteering takes time, but it is also a rewarding experience. There is a physiological benefit from volunteering. A study done by the University of British Columbia showed that students who volunteered had lower cholesterol, inflammation, and lower BMIs. Research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University showed that 200 hours a year of volunteering decreases the risk of hypertension for older adults.

Aghazarian said, “Volunteering is sacrificing something in your own life. It opens up the doors for caring and compassion and builds connection between people. In today’s technological world, volunteering and helping the less fortunate pulls people out of their own world and provides that missing interpersonal interaction.”

No matter the cause, giving a small amount of time can help many.

ASB teacher Jim Kelly said, “I am impressed by those who have time and give their time to various causes and people. The fact that people are willing to support others gives me hope for society.” 


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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Volunteering is no longer altruistic