The potential problem with volunteering

Cicely Bergsma, Reporter

Students philanthropically plant trees. Pictured, from left to right: (front) Garrett Capristo, Natalie Murphy, (back) Charles Schelle, Dominic Ghiradini, Adam Glassett, Lucas Lehn, Cayden Wilson, Max Nelson, Jonathan Niva, Aspen Garrison, Katelyn Brice, Casey Mcevoy, Pierce Barron-Neary, Sky Caron, Nala Bastnagel

With college applications underway, high school students often feel pressure to scramble for volunteer hours. Students are generally aware that colleges favor applicants who have given back to the community. However, some confusion lies around whether volunteering is actually required at Sehome.

When asked if there are volunteer requirements Amy Brewster, head of student success at Sehome, said, “No, there used to be graduation requirements at one point but that’s all gone away”. Objectively, requiring that all students spend time helping their community seems beneficial, but in actuality it proved ineffective.“ It was too hard for all kids to meet the requirements and how do you check up on that.” A lot of students may have other obligations, equally beneficial for making responsible citizens, such as working or taking care of siblings. However, students with more responsibility would have a difficult time making time to volunteer, and it would be unfair to such students to set this as a graduation requirement. “High school is a training ground for you guys to be adult people in your world,” Brewster said. “That means being a good citizen, a good community member.” It’s important for students to be philanthropic for their own reasons, as opposed to only having extrinsic motivation.

Some students do have a legitimate passion for helping others, but many join programs with the sole purpose of improving their college application. Brewster has heard a lot about the true motivations of student volunteers as a faculty leader of Mariner Mentors. This program is a nationwide support system for freshmen known by many as Link Crew. “I can only speak to what I know which is mostly Mariner mentors,” Brewster said. “Link crew is a national program, so kids can say, “I did link crew,” and people know what that means”. A lot of people do link crew until application processes are due. And then they don’t. They stop showing up to meetings, and stop participating.” One can’t be blamed for having self-serving reasons for volunteering however, once a commitment is made to a certain cause or program it should be honored.

The stereotype of complacent or unmotivated seniors is certainly based in reality but many high schoolers do volunteer without ulterior motivations. Demi Kotsogeani (12) has enjoyed volunteering at parks and recreation summer camps. “My motivation is just that I like doing it because it’s fun and it makes me feel good being able to help out the community and being able to give back”. Like everything volunteering is what you make it. If you are working with causes and programs you really care about you are providing a greater benefit to yourself and others.

For those interested in volunteering there are resources available through Sehome and other services in Bellingham.  “The career center and Ms. Zender has a whole thing on how you can help. There’s a program called the Whatcom volunteer center, with a million different things you can do,” Brewster said.