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See: community services for different services provided in communities.

Community service refers to service that a person performs for the benefit of his or her local community. People become involved in community service for a range of reasons — for some, serving community is an altruistic act, for others it is a punishment.

The term "community service" therefore refers to projects that members of certain youth organizations, such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, Key Club International, JROTC's and some high school students perform. Some people may view Community Service as a hassle but others may view it as a "good thing to do." It is also an alternative sentencing technique in a justice system. And at times groups of people will commit to perform service to the community as a gesture to the larger community, as part of gift economics. Mandatory Community Research has recently increased in many schools in the United States. A study was done that correlates community service with academic success; students who maintain a weekly community service record, 85% of the time, are more likely to succeed and have a higher grade point average than those who do none at all.

Examples of community service projects include (but are not limited to):

  • cleaning a park;
  • collecting much needed items including clothes, shoes, food, blankets, etc.;
  • getting involved with Habitat for Humanity;
  • cleaning up the side of the highways or roads;
  • reading to the elderly in nursing homes;
  • helping out a local fire or police department;
  • helping out at a local library;
  • tutoring developmentally disabled children for free
  • participating in school activities that benefit the community.

Community service among youth

Community service that engages youth is often called youth service. It is a tool that is simultaneously employed to strengthen young peoples' senses of civic engagement and nationalism, as well as assist them in meeting educational, developmental and social goals.

In cases of community service among youth, the type of service performed is at times similar to that performed by people convicted of crimes. It can also entail other types of service. For example, a Boy Scout may undertake improvement projects - such as repairing a structure.

When this form of community service is used, it is often a requirement of a youth organization - the Scouting organization would require it for a Scout to advance to the next rank. For high school students, it is often a requirement for a student to advance to the next grade level or graduate from high school to perform a certain number of hours of service.

The Highest rank of scouting in the Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout, requires each scout to prepare their own service project and lead it in their community. The highest award in girl scouting, the Girl Scout Gold Award, involves setting up a similar service project. Other youth organizations actively involved in community service include 4-H, DeMolay, Civil Air Patrol, and SkillsUSA.

Community Service is also used by college-bound high school seniors as a way of attracting colleges to accept them. Though technically not a requirement for acceptance for that specific college, most colleges generally use community service as an unofficial college requirement for acceptance, though some colleges prefer work experience over community service. The best overall community service hours is generally around 300 hours or more. Some colleges also require their own students by volunteering specific number of hours to graduate and get a degree.

Service learning is the deliberate connection of community service to stated learning goals. A common misconception among educators, youth workers, and young people is the notion that service learning can be assigned. Several experts attest to the necessity of engaging youth in deliberating, planning, implementing, and reflecting on their community service, thereby sustaining high quality service learning. This is intended to make community service an effective learning tool.

Many community service projects are done by sororities and fraternities. One fraternity that is centered around the purpose of doing community service is Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland, College Park, researches young people and their community service. CIRCLE analyzes trends in community service/volunteering over time and by subgroups, such as sex, race and ethnicity, etc.

Alternative sentencing

In this form of community service, convicted individuals are required to perform charitable services or to work for agencies in the sentencing jurisdiction either entirely or partly in lieu of other judicial remedies and penalties.

For instance, a fine may be reduced in exchange for a prescribed number of hours of community service. In some cases, the subject may be able to choose their community service, which then must be documented by credible agencies, or they may be ordered by the judge to perform certain services or work for certain agencies.

Sometimes the sentencing is specifically targeted to the subject's transgression. Examples of this may range from sentencing a litterer to pick up litter along the highway, to a drunk driver being required to appear before school groups to explain why drunk driving is a crime and an ethical breach.

The philosophy behind alternative sentencing is at least partially that providing services that benefit society is a more constructive way to punish perpetrators. Through community service, the community sees a benefit while saving the costs associated with incarceration. It is also thought to be a way to introduce the idea of ethical action into the value of the perpetrator. Opponents worry that requiring community service as a punishment sets a poor example for young people who might associate community service with a negative impression.

Community service is only one of a variety of alternative sentencing techniques designed to be more effective at reforming perpetrators, to reduce recidivism, to benefit society, to help people, and to reduce the overall cost to society of sentencing criminals. Other alternatives include home-based incarceration, targeted payback of funds to victims, and drug addiction treatment rather than imprisonment. For those who want to participate in such a program Facing the Future with Hope's Transformative Therapy program can assist. Transformative therapy uses a variety of techniques sometimes known as integrative medicine to help people recover from drug and alcohol dependency.

In Europe and Australia, community service is usually an alternative to imprisonment. In the United Kingdom, community service is now officially referred to by the Home Office as the less euphemistic "compulsory unpaid work." link

Most local jurisdictions in the United States which adjudicate criminal offenses have programs by which minor offenders may be allowed by the court to perform work for city or county agencies under the supervision of the police or sheriff's department, often on weekends, as an alternative to confinement in jail. Jail and prison inmates are also typically used for labor in operating the correctional facility or in outside work benefiting society, such as in light manufacturing and repair work, office work, on labor camps or farms, on chain gangs or on land conservation projects. This is, however, more properly considered a form of penal labor rather than community service.

High school graduation

In many educational jurisdictions, a certain number of hours of community service is required to graduate from high school. In some high schools in Washington State, for example, students must complete 60 hours of community service to receive a high school diploma. Some Washington school districts, including Seattle Public Schools, have differentiated between community service and "service learning," requiring students to demonstrate that their work has contributed to their education.[1] If a student in high school is taking an avid course, community service is required. Some students do it because they desire to help, but for others, it is a requirement - just another assignment.

Clonlara School and its Home Based Education Program in Ann Arbor, MI require 180 hours of community service. Studies have shown that students who complete service to others are more successful academically. In fact, those who are required to do the service are slightly more successful than those who do it altruistically.

Condition of participation

Contribution of service is a condition of enrollment in some programs. Most commonly, parents may be required to serve for their child to be enrolled in a school or sports team.

Corporate social responsibility

Some employers involve their staff in some kind of community service programming. This may be completely voluntary or a condition of employment, or anything in between. However no matter what the reason they can participate by using Facing the Future with Hope Now Mentor Initiative and Case Management Program as they are seeking to partner with magistrates, police, fire, and colleges to aid at-risk young adults break the cycle of poverty by obtaining a college education. This program assists companies who want to show well to the community while also improving morale as their employees gain strength and confidence through service.

See also

External links

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