Why Do Community Service?

Johnny Gross When students first hear about Latin’s seemingly hefty 10 hour service requirement for freshmen, they often sigh in frustration, expecting it to be a sheer nuisance. They might ask: “Like seriously, what is the point of doing 10 hours of community service? Like why?”. Well, I am here to answer that question, as I try to prove the importance of community service (spoiler alert: it is mutually beneficial). This past weekend I volunteered at Circ Esteem, a circus program whose mission is to “unite youth from divers racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds and help them build self esteem  and mutual respect through the practice of circus arts”   Many of you have probably heard of Circ Esteem, as Jack Gomberg, a Senior at Latin has spent years there developing his circus talents and sharing them with others.  The Latin volunteers were there to help  orchestrate a circus show being performed that afternoon —we handed out flyers, cleaned the stage, and were a part of the audience to support the child performers. What impressed me most about the Circ Esteem show was not only the talent of the performers, but was the way they worked together; it was evident what strong sense of community lay within the Circ Esteem program. From Jack Gomberg’s frighteningly impressive German Wheel, to the high flying trapeze act, it was a spectacular sight Saturday afternoon to watch these young kids work in harmony. I had such a positive experience that afternoon that I began to wonder whether this service hour requirement  is more beneficial to the community in need or to us Latin students.  While the direct and obvious benefits of service are to the community, the students are also enriched during the process.   With the Uptown Partnership launched in the fall of 2012,  Latin has done much to revitalize the Uptown neighborhood – whether they are helping out at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or providing other services to schools in need.   The more subtle beneficiaries of this process are the students and faculty providing the service.   While service often may seem like an unnecessary chore, it is far from that. The hands on experience and the interactions with people of different backgrounds, enables us Latin students to develop strong connections with those whom we are helping. Ms. Bunger, who has been the head of service learning at Latin for six years, is passionate about continuing to incorporate service learning into the school curriculum. She believes that community service is pivotal to the success of a school and its students as “most new research suggests that our brain works differently when we interact with people. We need to get out of theoretical mindset, and actually do hands on work tending to systematic issues such as poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction. This also helps to push the Latin students out of their comfort zones.” Ms. Bunger’s main mission concerning service learning is that ‘every kid JK through 12th grade will have a meaningful service learning experience in some capacity.” In order to make this a reality, she, Ms. Hennessy, and Ms. Warren have proposed an additional class called Social Justice Action “that incorporates both statistics and contemporary Chicago issues.” Also, the students need to continue to take leadership in community service, so that it the allure of community service permeates throughout Latin One example of a student leader is Latin senior, Camden Olson, who is currently a co-head of Service Learning with Yulissa, further corroborated the mutual benefits of community service. “I think service is important because it humbles people and really opens your eyes to different worlds we aren’t normally exposed to. You also make new connections and friendships and improve your people skills, such as making sure to speak up and how to talk to people who can’t really talk back or who have disabilities.” Her biggest struggle, believe it or not, is convincing people to sign up for service opportunities, while in the midst of their busy school years. Community service is not simply volunteering yourself to aid others, rather it offers tremendous personal rewards. So the next time Camden and Yulissa make an announcement during gathering, I implore you to, instead of asking “why do community service?”, think about how much you will gain from the experience (the answer is a lot).]]>