Volunteer or voluntold?

Shorewood’s community service requirement has to go

by Zoey Hogan, Staff

If you’re a student here at Shorewood, yearning to graduate, you most certainly are familiar with the number 40. That looming number on every student’s mind as they wrestle credits and requirements. The number means time spent on community service, those 40 hours of work to help those around you. 40 hours that some can’t spare.

Not-so-fun fact: as it stands, there is no way to waive community service hours on an individual basis. While transfer students are given a reduced requirement if they transfer after 9th grade, there are no other exceptions available. 

It doesn’t matter if you have a job that takes all your time, if you’re caring for your family, if you’re depressed and barely have the energy to get out of bed, if you don’t have a method of transportation, or if a hundred other commitments take precedence. You are expected to get the same 40 hours as the kids who have every opportunity to get that and beyond. 

Let’s face it: the community service requirement in order to graduate is an unnecessary stress and the district knows it. The system is inefficient and unfair, depends on just the college & career counselor to handle, and burdens every student with yet another task to juggle. 

How many of us have dreaded those 40 hours while we carve through our homework and reach for what little spare time we have? How many of us have spent our first years of high school worrying over how to even get an opportunity to volunteer, too young to drive and too young to volunteer at some places altogether? How many people have to crunch in their senior years, during their breaks and vacations, just to graduate? 

The current system is unfairly biased against students who struggle with poverty, mental health, non-academic responsibilities, and even just a lack of free time. Not everybody has what they need to spend 40 hours volunteering—yet the requirement does not account for them. It’s time for Shorewood—and the Shoreline School District—to step up for their students and make some changes. 

Let’s face it- the community service requirement in order to graduate is an unnecessary stress, and the district knows it.”

The administration has the means to make the student experience a little easier with a little less stress, and far more equality, as seen with the cancelation of the requirement for the class of 2020 through the class of 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve already proven the requirement can be waived for some classes— so how much harder can it be to establish a criteria for individuals, or get rid of it entirely?

According to Dan Gallagher, the Director of Secondary Academic Programs & Career and Technical Education for Shoreline School District, the school board will make a decision on the fate of the requirement sometime in the spring. The decision will be permanent and apply to all further classes. Potential outcomes include keeping the requirement, reducing the number of hours, expanding what qualifies as community service, or removing the requirement—even a combination of the options. 

Students and families will have a chance to share their voices in focus groups and surveys sometime in February and March. Change is coming to the district’s volunteering policies, one way or another. When the time comes, make sure your opinion on the requirement is heard.