The Ridgefield School District recently unveiled a new community service program, which will be used as an award for graduating students who qualify.
Joseph Vance, the Ridgefield School Board president, said that historically a certain number of volunteer hours made up a portion of the graduation requirement for seniors.
“The thought process was that mandatory volunteer hours aren’t really volunteering, and so we had concerns about mandating volunteering,” Vance said. “Also, that could have potentially become a stumbling block to graduation.”
Vance said he hasn’t seen a student not graduate because they didn’t complete the mandatory volunteer hours, but said the requirement shouldn’t be a hurdle for students. Instead of mandating volunteer hours, Vance said the board came up with a way to encourage students to give back by providing recognition to those who put in a certain number of volunteer hours over the course of their high school career. Students who do that will be recognized at the time of their graduation.
Vance is hopeful there will be a lot of participation from students.
To qualify for the recognition, seniors who graduate in 2022 must complete at least 36 hours of community service, the Class of 2023 must have 72 hours, the Class of 2024 needs 108, and students in the Class of 2025 must have at least 144 community service hours, according to a news release from the Ridgefield School District.
The program was created by the school administration, but was approved by the school board, Vance said.
“They created it as a recommendation of the board,” he said.
When the amount of volunteering hours are successfully completed, students will receive a diploma with a special “community service” seal to recognize students who voluntarily donated time to worthwhile efforts in the community, the release said.
Vance hopes the effort will create a stronger community.
“The Ridgefield School District Board of Directors is grateful to be part of a service-minded community with students who care deeply about making a difference,” Vance stated in the release. “The community service seal program allows us to recognize and encourage their efforts and honor those who have given of themselves for the betterment of the Ridgefield community.”
According to the release, volunteer hours will be tracked on an official “community service log” and verified by a school staff member. Examples of activities that qualify include participating in Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H, Key Club and volunteering at a local church. Students can also attend events like a walk-a-thon or Jump Rope for Heart.
Other things that would qualify are personal projects which help particular community members. An example of this would be assisting an elderly or disabled person who is not related to the student with household chores, helping seniors at a nursing home or similar facility, volunteering in a library or hospital, or tutoring younger students on a regular basis, the release said.
Services that would not qualify for the seal include serving as a teacher’s aide during school, participating in political organizations or campaigns, or being part of a school band, choir, sports team, or drama production. Court-ordered community service does not count either, stated the release.
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