- A recent study by the University of Maryland's Do Good Institute indicates that though nearly half of incoming college freshmen surveyed wanted to become leaders in their communities and 80% indicate a desire to help others, volunteerism and charitable giving among high school students has declined since 2005, Education Week reports.
- Though 11 states require students to be involved in service learning projects, there appears to be little correlation between state policy requirements and the true rate of volunteerism; in fact, some earlier studies suggest that high school students who are required to volunteer are less likely to do so.
- The study suggests that schools may benefit from more intergenerational activities as teens whose parents volunteer were more likely to volunteer as well. Volunteerism among parents, however, has declined as well.
While most educators agree that volunteering benefits students, there has long been some debate over whether volunteering should be required. Students benefit not only because they gain a better understanding of the world around them, but also because they gain confidence by seeing how their actions can benefit the lives of others. Volunteer activity can also improve a student’s chances of college admission or gaining a scholarship.
However, efforts to force students to volunteer seem to not have much effect. States and districts have a wide variety of policies concerning service learning. The “Do Good” study indicates that states that require the most are not necessarily the ones with the highest rates of volunteerism.
Civics education teachers are more likely to have an impact by weaving the benefits of volunteerism and civic engagement within the curriculum through field trips or project-based learning opportunities because volunteerism is more effective when students have an opportunity to reflect on the experience rather than just ticking off a requirement box.
Students are also more likely to be civically engaged if they are provided with convenient opportunities to serve, especially if they can serve with other students. One way to encourage student volunteerism efforts is for schools to find volunteer opportunities and to provide access to those opportunities through social media or though classrooms. School leaders and teachers may not be able to force students to volunteer, but can always inspire them.