“We don’t count the hours; we make the hours count.” I recently heard our Director of Service Learning repeat this important statement. This concept is 180 degrees opposite from the state mandated 100 hours of service needed by students to qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship.
Like many of the well-intentioned rules legislators have imposed on schools in recent years, the 100 hours of service required for a Bright Futures Scholarship award puts more of a focus on community service hours than on service learning and social activism. Just as standardized testing without the learning skills and habits of mind that make one a successful lifelong learner, community service, without an understanding of how the work can impact larger community issues, has a short-term impact.
There is no doubt there is a need for citizens to offer service at food banks, blood drives, and cleanups of parks, roadsides, and beaches. Those acts of community service address many immediate needs of our community. However, if we are to make a lasting influence on the standards and quality of life in our communities, citizens need to be mindful of the larger impact that service and social activism can play in our communities, states, nation, and world.
This coming week Shorecrest Upper School students will spread out across St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, Florida, other states, and other nations to engage in a week-long service learning experience. Shorecrest is one of few schools in the country that takes four consecutive days for all of our Upper School teachers and students to engage in depth with service and service learning activities. We are particularly proud that our Service Week
program was originated by students
8 years ago.
One of the significant elements of our Mission is for our students to develop a commitment to social responsibility. Just as we celebrate the academic, athletic, and artistic success of our students, we celebrate the incredible commitment and contributions our students make to non-profits, and various causes around the region, state, and world. We are educating the citizen leaders of the future.
Whenever I hear people lament the behavior of “today’s youth,” I redirect them to the acts of service, generosity, and kindness we see exhibited every week. Our Shorecrest students have the opportunity to do more than check a box that reports the completion of 100 hours of service. They have peers and adults around them who model a commitment to social responsibility, a lifetime of service, and life-long learning, thereby making our communities equitable, just, and healthier.