Coming Around To Community Service

One of the biggest class projects here at Palmer Ridge is the community service project. Every freshman is required to complete this project with a certain number of hours. However, more recently there have been some changes involving the project. As many students know, opportunities for community service are very slim, and many of the teachers have seen this as well. Mrs. Wheeler, one of the Civics and Economics teachers at Palmer Ridge, gave us the inside scoop of what’s been going on. “I found, in my first year, a lot of volunteer opportunities are available for kids who are 16 years or older as individuals. There are some places like Care and Share, where you can go with an adult, but we know that parents are very busy,” said Mrs. Wheeler. 

Covid only made this problem worse, causing the project to be postponed. Over the past three years, there has been a lot of debate over when to restart the project. “We did the project my first year, we did not do it my second year because that is when Covid had us cohorted,” said Mrs. Wheeler. “Last year we did bring the project back for first semester, but we realized that some of the other schools were not doing it and it was a little more difficult for kids to find volunteer opportunities. So we did not do it second semester. We revisited the conversation at the beginning of this year, and decided to continue to postpone, temporarily, and so we are going to talk about it again at the start of next semester.”

Previously, there have been some very interesting projects that students have done, which is one of the many good things about community service. “I had one student in particular who worked at the Ronald McDonald House, so I thought that was pretty cool,” said Mrs. Wheeler. “Other kids have volunteered at the Ponderosa High Ropes Course. I’ve also had students work for a nonprofit for a school in Africa, so I’ve had a lot of community service for their fundraisers.” But doing something cool is not always what community service is about. “I would say my favorite part of the community service project is just that I have heard students volunteer because they are required to, but they continue to do it because they want to.” The community service project is not only there for a grade, it is also there for students to get involved with their community.

But where do we go from here? With one of the main reasons the project was postponed being because finding volunteer opportunities is so hard for 14 and 15 year olds, Mrs. Wheeler has been brainstorming some ideas to get the project back into Palmer Ridge. “I have always been flexible with trying to find opportunities for kids even if it is not something outside of school,” said Ms. Wheeler. “Before, when we had the requirement, we were pretty clear that we wanted it to be something outside of Palmer Ridge. But in recent years, because we have now decided to postpone it, I would love to have a community service component even if it is not the project on their own. I think that is something we can explore a little bit more, because I do feel like there could be more opportunities within PR where we can have freshmen exposed to community service without it being a required individual project.” Mrs. Wheeler talked about possibly being able to work with NHS eventually, which would not only expose freshmen to community service, but also mentorships as well as what it is like to be in NHS for those who are interested. But NHS is not the only option, “another really good community service based club is Key Club,” said Mrs. Wheeler. “Key Club provides so many community service opportunities and is such a good way to be involved, even without the requirement.”

Even with these amazing in school opportunities, a lot of younger students may not be able to participate, “I still think community service as a requirement is difficult, especially as I talked about, for 14 and 15 year olds. Sometimes they cannot volunteer and obviously they cannot drive themselves,” said Mrs. Wheeler. “I do think that if there was a way to tie that into the social studies curriculum at a different grade, that might be more beneficial.”