Community Service: Stimulated or Stunted?

Community Service: Stimulated or Stunted?

As the pandemic continues to hinder the plans, lives, and safety of millions, community service is arguably needed now more than ever before. However, with COVID-19 leaving waves of Zoom calls, face masks, and sanitizers in its wake, performing volunteer work this school year is easier said than done. “There simply haven’t been as many service opportunities since the start of the pandemic,” commented senior Renan Custodio.

As if attributing time for philanthropy amidst busy high school schedules isn’t hard enough, dwindling service opportunities makes matters worse. “Most of the in-person service opportunities I had shut down during the pandemic,” remarked junior Zakaria Djahed. Unfortunately, Djahed isn’t alone in his frustration, as numerous MCDS service leaders have also grappled with the difficulties of increasing participation through unprecedented times. 

Such was the case for junior Danielle Respler, who conveyed her exasperation at the cancellation of plans for funding clean water supplies via nonprofit Dig Deep. “Because of COVID, bake sales have been difficult to organize,” Respler said, “…so that has impacted the amount of funds we could have raised.”

The repercussions of the pandemic, however, were not all unfavorable for the MCDS Achieve Miami Club, an initiative dedicated to educating underprivileged youth. President Carly Williams explained that the pandemic caused the staff to think on their feet, leading to an influx of new ideas and accessible alternatives. “One positive impact COVID-19 had on Achieve Miami is that they started implementing other programs, like monthly food drives.”

Whether the growth of MCDS service organizations was stimulated or stunted, incentivizing high schoolers to partake in these programs remains the elephant in the room. Thus, the recent nut allergy restrictions placed on bake sale snacks have made reaching fundraising goals no easier. “Taking away bake sales all together for so long…made all service projects move to the background of the school activities…” opined senior Sabrina Morata. “The current bake sale process…has led student leaders to…not collect for their causes at all.”

One of the main organizations tackling this issue head on is the Community Service Board (CSB), dedicated towards engaging MCDS teens in service projects. “The CSB… helps the students become aware of these opportunities through promoting them,” suggested Davis Lubetsky, avid member of the 2021-2022 CSB. “This also helps create a better community that understands the importance of service.”

As the notion to stuff resumes with extracurriculars and service activities still lingers in the back of minds, the true incentives behind adolescent community service remain in question. “When I first started Achieve Miami, I did only sign up because of the community service requirement,” admitted Williams. “…But after spending a week with the little buddies, I knew this would be something I would want to carry out for as long as possible.” 

Although recent times of political and social polarization have flipped societal norms, humanitarian will in the MCDS community has not completely elapsed. “I love helping people in any way that I can…” shared Respler with all honesty. “So there is a more personal reason behind community service, it’s not just because it’s required.”

Looking to the future, current peer leaders hope to spread the message that community service is about more than just fulfilling the 100-hour graduation requirement. Just by being human, it seems that some degree of personal responsibility to help others lies within all. Lubetsky concluded that we all carry this moral obligation so that future generations can “…be better community members and be better people.”