He didn’t recall “community service” being a term when he was a student 40 years ago at Bishop Fenwick; it was just understood.
“It was as much a part of student activities as going to class and doing homework,” he said.
“It’s not a chore. It’s an obligation as a good citizen ... but you get as much back from it as you put into it,” McGeney said.
The School Committee will discuss the matter tonight, and Bettencourt hopes to have a policy in place for the fall. He envisions requiring juniors and seniors to volunteer for a local cause or charity, or even with the city, for 8 to 12 hours per school year.
When he was a student at Peabody High, Bettencourt said, he volunteered through his church and as a member of the National Honor Society. He put in many of those hours at the George Peabody House Museum.
On the North Shore, Danvers, Masconomet and Manchester Essex high schools all require students to do community service, as do the two Catholic high schools: St. John’s Prep and Bishop Fenwick. So do nearby Lynnfield and Saugus high schools. Generally, the policy is 10 hours per year, 40 hours total.
Schools Superintendent Joe Mastrocola said not only does such service provide an immediate community connection, but once students enter college or the workforce, service will be a big part of their education and/or vocation.
“It will be expected of them in the future,” he said.
Students will have flexibility in choosing service projects, he added, which may even spark interest in unexpected areas or give them an opportunity to develop new talents.
In addition to the actual service hours, many districts also ask students to write an essay reflecting on their service, which is often just as valuable as the physical service, Mastrocola said.
You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, email@example.com or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.