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March 25, 2014

Peabody High mulls community service

Students may need to volunteer as graduation requirement

PEABODY — Before seniors at Peabody High can graduate next year, they’ll likely have one more requirement to fulfill: community service.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt announced in his 2012 inaugural speech that he wanted to introduce some kind of community service requirement, and the proposal has slowly been taking shape as school board members and administrators discuss the best way to implement such a policy.

Local officials have only positive things to say about it and note that several other local high schools already have community service requirements.

“It’s something I strongly believe in for our students ... helping those in a less-fortunate position,” Bettencourt said. “I don’t want to put onerous conditions on anyone. ... Lots of students have to work or have extracurricular activities. I just want our students to understand a little better what’s going on in the world.”

It’s not that Peabody students aren’t volunteering now. Honors programs, athletics and other extracurricular activities either require or strongly encourage students to give back. Bettencourt just wants to make it an official part of the school program.

“We’ve been doing a lot of this for a number of years,” said Peabody High Principal Eric Buckley, adding that better communication of what students are already doing is probably needed.

“The kids are usually very willing to give up time,” he said, whether that’s with the city’s annual International Festival, business club or charitable fundraising walks. “Most of the kids through their four years are involved in some kind of community service or cleanup.”

Buckley said there may be some logistical issues to work out, but he doesn’t anticipate any large hurdles.

“Most kids will benefit from the experience,” said School Committee member David McGeney. “... I think community service is something that all kids should be doing.”

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