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Many schools nationwide now require a mandated amount of volunteer work as a graduation requirement. To volunteer means to freely offer to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. When students are forced to volunteer to meet arbitrary guidelines, it takes away the intrinsic value and the reward of doing a good deed out of one’s own volition.
While the act of volunteering itself promotes community engagement and motivates selflessness, evidence from a natural experiment in Canada found no correlation between obligatory volunteerism and an increase in altruism.
Results from a study conducted by the University of South Florida led to the conclusion that acts of ordained volunteering came from self-serving motives. Rather than focusing on the benefits of volunteering to aid their community, the students’ primary focus was completing their hours to graduate. Compulsory volunteering of such nature essentially defeats the purpose of the task overall.
Furthermore, many students find a lack of time to participate in something they don’t desire to do.
Data released from the U.S. Census in 2013 showed that 1 in 4 students worked on average. In addition to that, research compiled by The Urban Institute found that roughly one-third of 563, 000 high school dropouts quit school to provide for their families. Particularly ones that go through economic hardship, simply cannot be expected to spend the time that they do not have for something that does not benefit them. The enforcement of volunteering against their will causes conflict with their own personal obligations. Although volunteer work can encourage social and occupational skills, it is not a necessity for a student’s future well-being.
Other priorities, such as schoolwork, extracurriculars, and providing for one’s family, take much higher precedence for students than volunteering to fill a quota, no matter how much aid it gives to their community.
Another drawback that mandatory volunteering entails is the negative impact it may have on future volunteering efforts for students. Carolyn Dienhart, a Ph.D. student in psychology at the University of Minnesota, conducted a naturalistic research study on the consequences of prerequisite community service. The corollary determined that students that were mandated to volunteer were less likely to do so again in the future. This pressure of irremissible volunteering alters the perception of what should be known as a benevolent act. Volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to help those around you but when it is involuntary, it creates resentment and reluctance to future endeavors.
For students, volunteering has the potential to bring great benefits for themselves and their community. However, there is a fine line between encouraging volunteerism and commanding it. Requiring students to volunteer to fill an arbitrary quota unnecessarily burdens them, diminishes its purpose, and overall lessens the fulfillment gained from it. All things considered, volunteerism is truly only valuable when it is done from the good of one’s self.
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