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Community service builds discussion

By Chris Erspamer
Published: December 2009

Four years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, junior Mollie Solon participated in rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Solon is part of the Saint Bernard Project, a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to raising money to repair the destruction in New Orleans. Since its creation, the Saint Bernard Project has attracted over 10,000 volunteers of all ages and succeeded in rebuilding over 240 homes.

Solon, who joined the Saint Bernard Project last year, had previously worked for a similar association her freshman year, but considers her present group to be more effective.

“Saint Bernard is really careful in how it commits its money, she said. “It has been able to help out more families than other groups have managed, and it has done so in a faster and cheaper way.

Like Solon, many South students actively participate in community service, which may soon become a graduation requirement.

In response to students passing Senate Question 1 last June (52 to 48 percent), the South Senate voted to further discussion on a Community Service Bill that would make community service a graduation requirement starting with the class of 2014 on December 17.

Solon believes that more students need to get involved in community service, and she considers last year’s vote to make community service a graduation requirement as a “really smart move.

Many other Massachusetts high schools, such as Lexington, Needham, Natick, Lincoln-Sudbury, Dover-Sherborn, and Weston, have already required from 30 to 70 hours of community service for a student to graduate.

“[A community service graduation requirement] is an important step toward improving a community that provides so much for its students, senior and Senator Allen Li said. The Senate’s Community Service Committee consists of Li, senior Zack Hausle, and junior David Altman.

Before passing the bill, the South Senate hopes to hold a public forum where students can voice their opinions. Currently, the bill states that the minimum graduation requirement will be 35 hours, the hours being maintained and documented by the student.

According to Li, the South Senate hopes to “hear the benefits and the detriments to implementing a community service requirement before “pass[ing] it on to the faculty committee for review.

Students have mixed feelings regarding a community service graduation requirement.

Junior Hannah Thomas, who participates in community service, believes there should be a graduation requirement “because we need to be able to give back to the community.
“People who do community service because it’s required aren’t really doing it for the right reasons, junior Rachel Feinman said.

Senior Nina Bellio believes that the school should encourage community service instead of “forcing it.

On December 14, Solon reached the $15,000 quota necessary to repair her first house on and has already raised over $3,000 towards the repair of the next.

Solon has been to New Orleans twice and is planning to go again with her family during December vacation. Her father, who also takes part in the organization’s activities, has visited New Orleans six times.

Although Solon tried to start a club at the school for the purpose of raising awareness about the group’s work, she was unable to do so because students starting fundraising clubs must be official members of that fundraiser and the Saint Bernard Project only accepts volunteers.

Solon has met other students who have participated in aiding Katrina survivors, and, during her latest visit to New Orleans, she worked alongside 20 high school students from Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, Solon still feels that far too little attention is given to the difficulties of Katrina victims, both among students and among Americans in general.

“Even today there are many families stuck without a home, but since it’s not in the media as much, people tend to forget, she said. “Part of what our project tries to do is to point out that the problem is not solved, that there are people who are still suffering and need help.

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