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Community Service: For College and the Community

Jessica Chalas, sophomore, basks in her excitement as she prepares to volunteer at her local park district’s Halloween Fun Night. Enthusiasm pulses through her veins as she anticipates delight she will experience while she is working with the children and helping them to celebrate in a safe, friendly environment.

She will be an example for the kids, a role model. Volunteering warms her heart, improves the community, and potentially will provide the opportunity for her to receive a substantial amount of financial aid at her future college.

“I would probably do [community service] anyway, without the added college benefits,” said Chalas. “It is a good feeling knowing that you made someone smile, which is often the reward you can expect after doing some community service.”

Throughout the night, she will not be thinking about the hours of community service that will make her eligible for scholarships, but rather how she can enrich the lives of each individual child that she encounters.

Still, the financial aid would be quite a bonus to any student in today’s economy.

Almost all dedicated students participate in some sort of community service in an attempt to help them to be accepted into their ideal college. It might be that one extra element that will determine who receives the hefty envelope, and who will be put on the waiting list.

“You will not find a scholarship application that doesn’t ask for community service hours,” said Karen Miller, counselor.

At Huntley High School, there are countless volunteering opportunities such as National Honor Society, the silver chord program, Community Service Club, and even Student Council.

“Community service is definitely a noteworthy activity that colleges look for,” said Chalas. “Especially if you get a silver cord, because it shows the willingness to spend a few hours just helping out.”

Volunteering is a way for students, who may not be involved in sports or the arts, to show colleges that they want to have just as much school pride as the quarterback of the football team.

“Colleges like to see that students are not only active in their schoolwork, but also in the community,” said Madie Bartot, senior, who spends a significant amount of time volunteering at church retreats, lock-ins, and other functions at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

In all honesty, some colleges do not even take community service hours into consideration. They ask for a name, address, and a transcript, and that is all they need.  However, having a substantial amount of hours listed will most likely help, and will never hurt.

“If you volunteer at a particular soup kitchen once a month for a year, you’ll become a familiar face, and you’ll be well-known there,” said Angie Daurer, another counselor. “Then, the person who runs the soup kitchen could possibly write you a letter of recommendation for college in the future.”

Daurer once went on a college visit to Notre Dame in Indianapolis. There, the admissions representatives told her that they want an applicant who will make an impact on their campus.

What better way to show that you can “make an impact” than participating community service?

“[Community service] shows the college that you are well-rounded and you’re not just about academics,” said Miller. “It also shows that you can be a leader.”

Any college will look for these passionate and influential qualities in their applicants. Just like a person wants a friend who will be there for them in their most difficult times, a college will want a student who will give effort to help the campus to reach its full potential.

There are even colleges that take community service hours into consideration partly because the colleges offer volunteering programs within their school.

“DePaul University is very well-known for its outreach program,” said Miller.

At DePaul, the students in the outreach program use their time to help other college and high school students, from the neighborhoods of Chicago, find careers that will give them a better future.

Volunteering does not only benefit the people who are in need. It can also benefit the volunteer by teaching him/her various life skills or giving experience in the career that he/she may want to pursue.

“I am thinking about being a doctor, and I know that Sherman Hospital looks for high school students to volunteer,” said Chalas. “That is something that I definitely want to do.”

“I am always excited,” said Madie, describing her feelings before volunteering at the church retreat for confirmation students. “I know that I am not only going to help the students learn, but I am also going to learn things from them and make a difference in the world.”

The idea of participating in community service for the singular fact that there is scholarship money available seems selfish. However, a student who uses the scholarship money as a motivation for their volunteering is still servicing the community with their effort. The fact that they may get money does not change the fact that they are still helping the community.

“Getting scholarship money for your hours really is just an incentive,” said Bartot. “After you volunteer once, then you can learn that it is beneficial with or without a reward.”

From soup kitchens to summer camps, and nature preserves to churches, programs all over America are constantly in search of volunteers. The opportunities are endless for students who want to enrich their own environment. When colleges offer scholarships for community service, it encourages students to bring change to the broken world around them.


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Sophie Murk, Author

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