Belmont Hill is proud to promote its many community service opportunities, but does student participation match the publicity? I believe that school-wide events such as the Turkey Drive and the Halloween Candy Drive are much more attractive to students than the other optional community service opportunities because they require money but not time. Many students are simply not willing to commit the time to Belmont Hill’s community service programs. Other schools in the area, such as Roxbury Latin, Nobles, and Lawrence Academy, require students to participate in community service, Belmont Hill has no such requirement. While students may appreciate the additional time in their schedule, in the end, boys who see Community Service just as a “waste of time” miss out on a great opportunity.
A small group of students at Belmont Hill participate regularly in ongoing community service projects, including Work Crew and weekly poker at Meadowgreen, in part because the Belmont Hill administration does not emphasize these activities. Mandatory participation would surely benefit many people in Belmont and neighboring towns, not to mention the communities touched by our March trips. Last but not least, helping people makes you feel good about yourself and builds social skills, empathy, and perspective.
So what can the school do to change the community service program from lip service to meaningful activity? I suggest that some faculty members give a few extra credit points to those who choose to take the time out of their busy schedules and help others. This will increase the popularity of these groups even though the motivation might be somewhat phoney. I strongly believe that a set number of hours should be required for each year and an aggregate number for graduation if we hope to have mass participation in the future. Civic engagement and citizenship are integrated into the school mission: “Valuing our differences and working together, we embrace…service to others.” Our program should at least equal, if not surpass, those of our “rival” schools in terms of participation and popularity.
Community service requires you to take time out your busy schedule as a high-school student, but many students at Belmont Hill are very fortunate. Each student should feel obligated to give back to the community that afforded them these opportunities. As students at Belmont Hill, we need a change in mindset. We can touch the lives of hundreds of people both in Belmont and across the nation. Why not take advantage of that opportunity? Whether it be the Turkey Drive, Work Crew, or the Butler School, we have helped many people. And we could help so many more with the involvement of our 440-student body, rather than a small group of boys forced to juggle a variety of community service activities. I hope and expect that more students realize the importance of the positive impact they can have on society.
Give back. Make a difference.