The increased sense of social responsibility that a student volunteer experiences helps broaden their view of the world and also exposes them to experiences they might not otherwise see. There is personal satisfaction a volunteer receives, as well as being able to see the impact and difference their efforts made for the organization being helped. If both parties achieve an immense “win,” why aren’t we doing this more often? Few high schools require community service to receive a diploma in Indiana, but the Governor’s Work Ethic certificate, (currently in its first year at Mt. Vernon Schools,) does require six hours of community service. This is a start, but not yet an answer.
Social responsibility is an important part of a child’s education. It allows the child to discover a new interest, achieve a level of self-sacrifice that leads to self-satisfaction and builds self-esteem. Students can learn leadership, speaking, problem-solving, teamwork or even organizational skills by engaging in community service. This often can open opportunities for future involvement with organizations.
At a recent Fortville Convener’s Council meeting, Mt. Vernon Schools’ superintendent Shane Robbins volunteered Mt. Vernon students to help several Fortville community organizations. This collective group of Fortville civic organizations and nonprofit stakeholders discussed various potential projects, shared resources and collaborated on the vision for Fortville. The community service project became an immediate and cohesive solution to help several local organizations in need.
To my knowledge, this is the first time Mt. Vernon has organized an outreach community service project to this degree. Mt. Vernon High School seniors traditionally have a “senior work day” in May before graduation, however the service has been largely on the Mt. Vernon campus. After the initial project meeting, the goal was to have 100 students serve three hours in either the morning or afternoon at various Fortville organizations. To our pleasant surprise, 130 students signed up, and all but two students showed up. The service day was on the scheduled eLearning Day; students who volunteered still had to complete their eLearning daily assignments at home.
The benefits were immeasurable for the 130 Mt. Vernon Middle School and High School students who volunteered part of their eLearning Day to help others. On this day of service, various Fortville organizations received eager students who fulfilled their projects. With weather in our favor, students built a bridge and painted a gazebo in Memorial Park, created horseshoe pits at the American Legion Park, read to and completed crafts with kids at the library, spread mulch and replaced American flags at various cemeteries. Others went to a nursing home and danced, played games and shared art projects with the elderly.
The personal benefits of community service far outweigh the benefits of the organization being helped. Students learn about various civic causes they may feel drawn to and become engaged in. For some, this can lead to career opportunities. Students also learn the “power of one;” how one person can truly make a difference.
Mt. Vernon strives to build strong character traits that support citizenship in students. This year, a “Coordinator of Character Education” was hired to focus lessons on the six different Character Counts Pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. She is unifying the district by coordinating lessons so students are learning these traits simultaneously. Lessons and challenges keep each class receiving consistent repetition of the trait throughout the month.
I am partial to helping nonprofits, as all but three years of my career have been devoted to helping further missions of various nonprofits or community organizations. The self-fulfillment and sense of purpose far outweigh any sacrifice made. Recently, I have profiled various Mt. Vernon students in their servant leadership, including: goods collected by our community for hurricane victims, free glasses provided for soup kitchen visitors, student councils or honor societies helping those in need, and even an individual elementary student who provides hundreds of blankets for the homeless each year. These students exemplify the “power of one;” just ask the people they have helped.
Community service is contagious. In this season of thankfulness, find a need, get engaged, schedule the time and use the Nike slogan: Just Do It. You will be glad you did!
Maria Bond serves as the director of communications for Mt. Vernon Community School Corp.