Schools hope spirit of volunteering is catching
Published 12:00 am Monday, January 11, 2016
NATCHEZ — Seeing school-age children lending a hand at volunteer organizations isn’t uncommon, but for some students, their good deeds are also part of their education. Local school leaders say they hope the volunteer spirit will be contagious.
Most area schools do some form of community service, but not all of them also require a log of hours.
All three non-public schools, Adams County Christian School, Trinity Episcopal Day School and Cathedral School, require certain students to put in a required amount of service hours.
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At Trinity, the Rev. C.J. Meaders teaches a religion class for seniors in which students are required to perform 35 service hours, with a minimum of 20 being conducted off campus. Meaders said he believes the community service work is something that harks back to the school’s religious foundation.
“The thinking behind requiring them, I believe, for us, is to model a Christ-like life, and that’s a life that’s given to service to others,” Meaders said.
Meaders’ logic is similar to Cathedral’s Gabriel Cassagne, one of Cathedral’s religion teachers who monitors sophomore and junior service hours.
“We’re called to be stewards of God’s creation, and one way to do that is to go out and help the community,” Cassagne said.
At Cathedral, grades seven through 12 are required to do service hours for a total of 240 by graduation.
“They do the work and then they come back, and they’re excited about having helped out,” Cassagne said.
In the Natchez-Adams School District, many grades perform service projects while Natchez Early College Academy requires a minimum of 25 hours a year.
NECA Counselor Angela Reynolds said community service is a big part of getting accepted into college, but also broadens students’ awareness.
“It actually opens their eyes to the needs of the community,” Reynolds said.
NECA is currently only in its second year, but Reynolds said she has already seen a change in students’ reactions to the requirement. Last year, Reynolds had to remind students to get their hours completed, but she said this year, students seem to be doing a better job of keeping track.
“They’re holding each other accountable too,” Reynolds said.
For some students, volunteering is a new experience. And, for some of those students, Meaders said he’s noticed something.
“The feedback that I get is that when they actually engage and when they give of themselves, usually you can see a little bit of transformation happening,” Meaders said.
“They shine a little bit,” he said.
By opening themselves up to community service, Meaders said students might want to do it again or even find their calling.
“I think it prepares them to encounter the world,” Meaders said. “That’s what they’re heading off to do.”
But, ultimately Reynolds doesn’t want students to see the service hours solely as a graduation requirement. No one, Reynolds said, should have to make someone volunteer.
“Let this be something you really want to do, from your heart,” Reynolds said.
Cassagne also hopes volunteering will become habit forming. By starting students off when they’re young, Cassagne said it would become natural to them when they get older.
“It’s not just in high school that we’re called to serve,” Cassagne said. “We’re called to serve all the time.”