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Directions for Service at Ithaca High

Page history last edited by Jon Raimon 11 years, 3 months ago

Possible Directions for Service at Ithaca High School


I cannot claim to know the exact direction Ithaca High should head with regards to service.  There are already vibrant service efforts, from the robotic club’s time with little kids to the National Honor Society’s fundraising for relief in Haiti; from the Key Club to the Red Cross Club; from the Ithaca High branch of Habitat for Humanity to the highly active Invisible Children group, and the list goes on.  What I can offer are some ideas about service from the senior class of 2010, for I discussed this topic with virtually all of them through their Government class.  In addition, my time working and talking with teachers, administrators, and students from all four grades provided me with a measure of insight into what the Ithaca High community might desire when it comes to service. 


One might begin by asking why any changes should be considered in the first place.  As noted above, there are currently many ways to pursue service at Ithaca High.  Yet the vast majority of students I spoke with agreed that most service happens through after school clubs and that, in general, students from the same socio-economic background tend to populate those clubs, namely, students already on a relatively elite college bound trajectory.  Moreover, the service work through clubs does not, in general, build in two of the primary traits that the professional literature suggests are necessary for deeply meaningful service: links to the curriculum and on-going reflection.  With that said, I want to acknowledge that some clubs integrate a degree of reflection and many students are astute enough to make their own connections to topics they study in class.  Furthermore, as I discuss in the Service From Scratch section, service is most effective when it stems from genuine student concerns.  With the exception of those students who join service clubs only to pad their resumes, clubs are based on sincere student interest in the particular cause and it is the students who generally direct the service projects.  This was surely true of the Red Cross Club.  I had the chance to communicate with the club's dynamic, thoughtful president via email and it was evident that she and the students created all aspects of the projects and cared deeply about ameliorating poverty in our community.  Nonetheless, it may be worthwhile to consider changes to the current service program and I cannot think of a better place to begin than with students’ visions for the future. 


I asked the seniors to imagine that they were in charge of creating a service program at Ithaca High.  With that in mind, I asked them the following question:  “How would the service program be structured?  Through classes?  Through after school clubs? Individual placements (like you have through the government class)?  Done by homerooms?  With a teacher there to help / coordinate?  Should there be service done in each grade?  Should there be an hour requirement of service?  If so, how many hour for all four years? Are there classes or other groups that seem like a natural place for service at Ithaca High?  Here is the link to other questions I asked about service – Service and Ithaca High School


Before I offer the students’ actually suggestions, I will provide some rough statistics based on their written responses.


  • About a third of the students said there should be no service requirement, though this did not mean they all believed there should be no program offered.


  • About one half of the students said there should be a service requirement.


  • About one quarter of the students said service should be exclusively through after school clubs. 


  • About one half of the students said at least part of the service program should be carried out during the school day.


  • About one quarter of the student explicitly said service should be linked to academics.


  • About one half of the students said they want someone, be it a teacher or a counselor, to assist them in their service work.


  • About one third of the students said they wanted service directly tied to classes.


  • About one third of the students said they wanted homerooms or something similar to serve as focal points for service.


  • About three percent said service was a waste of time and should not be part of the school in any form.


  • About half of the students said that service should begin in 9th grade and continue on through 12th grade, be it required or optional. 


Below is a representative sampling of the students’ ideas for service at Ithaca High. Their creativity and clarity of vision impressed me. Keep in mind that they did this in ten or so minutes; no doubt with time they could flesh out their ideas. 


While I think it to be essential that all students perform community service throughout high school, I don’t think there should be a minimum number of hours required. Volunteering should be done by individual choice, not just because he/she needs to complete some materialistic incentive for a grade.  I think volunteer work should be heavily encouraged through school-mandated trips or “focus days’ or seminars, etc.


I like the idea of individual placements to ensure that students get to choose something they enjoy.  I think there should be a 10 hour requirement for each year of high school, with the idea of additional hours encouraged.


Teachers would organize trips paid for by school and fundraising.  Any class could create a lesson plan around some volunteering oriented program.


Once a month a class goes together to do community service work related to the subject.  There should be an hour requirement of 40 hours for all 4 years.


I think some classes like government or environmental science took like 2 hour field trips to do service it could be big help.  Maybe if one class each year was required to do a certain amount of service it could be fun for the students and effective.


I think service programs should be structured through classes, it would be a fun experience, it would get kids to open up more to the community, and doing it as a class would get kids to interact more rather than requiring to do it individually.  And each grade should do some volunteer work together.


If you order people not only to do service but what to do, it’s just unpaid labor.  Individual placements / clubs people join voluntarily are the only [options for service] I can really support.  I don’t think we should require service of freshman. First year of high school, and they’re only 14. But sophomores, juniors and seniors should.


It would be a great experience if there were something in place that allowed students to volunteer during the school day, in the community, with teacher supervision. It shouldn’t be a requirement but should be more accessible.


I think it would be a good idea to have a class that is required that is totally focused on volunteering.  Kids would go out in groups and have a weekly assignment with check points each day, so that kids actually do it.  They would get a different place every 5 weeks so that they get used to a place but yet they change so they get to experience more than I place.


It would be really cool if it was an in-school type of program, especially if we were put in fairly random groups. 


It would be structured through clubs, and there would be many of them, with students required to participate in at least one community service club for their 9th grade year. 


It should be structured through a class, but there should be a club that also runs it to help with finding volunteer opportunities.  There should be a minimum per year, than students would be introduced to volunteering and than have a chance to continue.


I think that twice a semester (either both days in a row, or one day in the beginning and one in the end) there would just be a service day where all the school (faculty and students) were required to do community work.  Either the kids would go out and volunteer or the agency could bring work to them.


I like the idea of individual placements or school clubs (a class for community service would be an unnecessary waste of time and resources).  Perhaps a service quota for each grade with an hour requirement.


It should be required, but the service program in school would need a volunteer center, much like student services.  Students come in, ask for opportunities and then sign up and told where to go.


For one, I think teacher assistance is needed for teenagers.  It would help them stay focused and organized.  I think community service should be required in every grade but I’m hesitant to say there should be an hour requirement.  I feel like one of the goals of giving students the opportunity to do community service is to eventually lead them into doing it willingly.  Forcing a certain amount of hours would undermine that.


I think this should be done after school through clubs and teachers engaged to show support.


I think that there should be a teacher present to help coordinate to make sure it gets done and smoothly.  I think 9th and 10th grade have the most mandatory volunteer work because the workload is lighter than junior and senior year.  I think a couple of hours a semester a semester but maybe it would be more effective to take half a day off to do it during the day because it wouldn’t interfere with other extracurricular activities.


Service in grades 11 and 12, and second half of semester class used for service time.


Every six days: - students pick science / Social Studies / English; - extra credit for work done outside of school; - mandatory class to pass high school, class taken 9-12th grade. 


v  I think it should be through clubs.  There are so many kids at Ithaca High who are too stressed / busy enough at it is. 


v  I think service should be done through classes during a special day or time of day set aside just for that.  There should be hour requirement for each grade – maybe something really reasonable like 5 hours a quarter so that kids don’t feel overwhelmed.  Classes like environmental science could do projects to help the environment / spread awareness, while classes like English could go work at elementary schools.


v  I think that if it was offered as a class, with credit given, an elective of sorts.


v  I think after school is not ideal because that immediately disallows athletes and some kids who need to have jobs.  The only time I could regularly do community service would be on the weekends or during the school day.


v  Staff should be coordinating and advertising it.  It definitely should not be forced but always be present and known by students who may be interested.


v  I think there should be homeroom type of class that meets once a week or month.  Maybe students will get two free periods on that day to have time to do service somewhere.  Maybe don’t separate by grades because then upperclassmen and lowerclassmen will get to know each other. 


Through a class, therefore it is randomly assigned in the scheduling but for people that want to take it.  And that way you are with people you know less of.


I think making a service class (similar to WISE) could be taken instead of gov’t / econ. Or adding an elective class relating to service – like an individual study.  It should not be forced or infringe.


v  Making people do service at a place that has no meaning to them won’t work, whereas if you volunteer on your own or through a club then you’re showing that you are passionate about doing that service.


There could be posting in the main office of places that need volunteers and people sign up accordingly.  I think there should be a requirement for each grade – 9 hours per year. Maybe the college and career center could appoint one more person to coordinate volunteer opportunities, reflections, and trips. 


I think a service requirement for each grade, based on number of hours and coordinated by a faculty member.  Furthermore, written reflections upon the work would allow students to gain more meanings.  Trips would also be an incentive.         














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