Service programs may do more good for volunteers than the community

Trevor Crowell, Sports Editor

While some Sequoia students relax on weekends, those involved in the Young Men’s Service League or the National Charity League devote time to working in soup kitchens, hospitals and many other philanthropies.

“Some projects changed my mentality and perspective on the world,” senior and Young Men’s Service League member Daniel Spottiswood said. “We take things that would otherwise be wasted and recycle them into really something significant that other people can benefit from.”

Since the inception of the NCL in 1958 and the YMSL in 2001, the two organizations have logged hundreds of thousands of hours in community service in homeless shelters, children’s hospitals, senior centers, art museums as well as more well known organizations like the American Cancer Society, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Special Olympics.

“Whenever you go to work in the community, you realize that a lot of the people that need help and benefit from what you do are the people that you know or the people that you go to school with,” sophomore and National Service League member Lauren Cresta said. “Those in need or in poverty, minus the fact that they need more help, are not any different from you.”

Students and their mothers are expected to fulfill around 20 hours of community service per year, participate in multiple projects and commit to multiple years of service.

“Whenever you see people or talk to people or help people [who] have a different life story than you, it is interesting and helps you grow as a person because you see that there are different things out there,” senior Katie Fazio said.

Despite the good intentions, students have realized that these programs have slowly evolved into another thing to add to a college application.

“Even though all these parents are trying to get their kids to do community service, at the end of the day it’s more about getting their kids to college and not really about the people that we help by doing the work,” junior Jackson Peyton said.

Despite the fact that both organizations heavily emphasize the importance of developing family relationships, this goal seems to be of no avail.

“If anything, it hinders the relationships,” Spottiswood said. “I get more frustrated with my mom for making me do some of the activities than actually enjoying doing community service with her.”

Members have found that their experience in building skills has been held back due to their lack of ability to take charge in operations.

“The whole thing is mainly run by the moms, and the kids don’t really do much,” Peyton said. “They pretty much give the kids scripts and tell us exactly what to say during the meetings.”

Both the YMSL and especially the NCL have taken heat from both outsiders and inside members of the organizations for supposedly being overly selective in choosing their members; specifically the Caucasian middle and upper class.

“I do feel like it is very, very predominantly white,” Fazio said. “There is very little diversity and I think that that is one of the worst parts of it.”

The admission process which requires a student to be sponsored by a member already in the organization.

“The chapters are usually made by a wealthy mom in the area and you have to have a recommendation to join,” Spottiswood said. “Once you have that base in place, then those wealthier people invite their friends so you are not really going to gain a lot of diversity. There is definitely a problem and it is not easily changed with the way that they format it.”

The unfortunate truth of students only taking part to satisfy their parents’ wishes and look better on their resume leads to many mixed feelings.

“It’s an organization to teach people to volunteer and to give back,” Cresta said. “Granted, people may do it to look better on an application, but I think it’s still important, and it’s still getting more people to donate their time and have better awareness of issues in the community.”