Community service

Community service

Community service is donated service or activity that is performed by someone or a group of people for the benefit of the public or its institutions.[1]

Volunteers may provide community service, however, not everyone who provides community service is seen as a volunteer, because some people who provide community service are not doing it of their own free will; they are compelled to do so by:

  • their government as a part of citizenship requirements, in lieu of military service (such as the practice of Zivildienst in Germany);
  • the courts, in lieu of, or in addition to, other criminal justice sanctions;
  • their school, to meet the requirements of a class, such as in the case of service learning or to meet the requirements of graduation, or, in the case of parents, required to provide a certain number of hours of service in order for their child to be enrolled in a school or sports team.

There are also people providing community service who receive some form of compensation in return for their year of commitment to public service, such as AmeriCorps in the USA (who are called members rather than volunteers).


Youth community service

Community services performed by youth is also referred to as youth service. Youth service is intended to strengthen young peoples' senses of civic engagement and community, and to help them achieve their educational, developmental and social goals.

Youth service hours and/or projects is often required for advancement, e.g. for a Scout to advance to the next rank or for a high school student to graduate.

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[who?] 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.

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.

Youth Organizations

Youth organizations actively involved in community service include Key Club International, Scouts, Camp Fire USA, 4-H, DeMolay, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, Civil Air Patrol, JROTC, Key Club, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public,the Air Cadet League of Canada, the Army Cadet League of Canada, the Sea Cadet League of Canada, the Navy League Cadet Corps (Canada), the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, Royal Canadian Navy Cadets, Royal Canadian Sea Cadets,and Interact Club

High school graduation and Community Service

Many educational jurisdictions in the United States require students to perform community service hours 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 diploma. Some of the Washington school districts, including Seattle Public Schools, differentiate between community service and "service learning," requiring students to demonstrate that their work has contributed to their education.[2] If a student in high school is taking an AVID course, community service is required. The SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) made high school students complete 100 hours of community service (25 hours a year) in order to graduate high school.

Conditions 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.


Though technically not a requirement, many colleges make community service an unofficial requirement for acceptance. However, some colleges prefer work experience over community service, and some require that their students also continue community service for some specific number of hours to graduate. Certain academic honor societies such as Delta Epsilon Sigma have rejected 4.0 GPA students that lacked community service experiences on their applications, because they honor community service so much.

Many student organizations exist for the purpose of community service, the largest of which is Alpha Phi Omega. Community service projects are also done by sororities and fraternities.

Alternative sentencing

In this form of community service, people convicted of crimes are required to perform community services or to work for agencies in the sentencing jurisdiction either entirely or partly in lieu of other judicial remedies and sanctions, such as incarceration or fines.

For instance, a fine may be reduced in exchange for a prescribed number of hours of community service. The court may allow the convict to choose their community service, which then must be documented by credible agencies, or may mandate a specific service.

Sometimes the sentencing is specifically targeted to the convict's crime, for example, a litterer may have to clean a park or roadside, or a drunk driver might appear before school groups to explain why drunk driving is a crime. Also, a sentence allowing for a broader choice may nonetheless disallow certain services that the offender would reasonably be expected to perform anyway; for example, a convicted lawyer might be specifically prohibited from counting pro bono legal services.

Most jurisdictions in the United States have programs by which the court may require minor offenders to perform work for city or county agencies under the supervision of the police or sheriff department, often on weekends, as an alternative to confinement in jail. Jail and prison inmates are also typically used for labor either in the jail or at outside work that benefits society, such as in light manufacturing, 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 than community service.

At least part of the philosophy behind this kind of sentencing is that providing a service to the community is more beneficial than punishment for its own sake. Through community service, the community sees a benefit while saving the costs associated with incarceration of the convict and having the work carried out by paid staff. It is also thought to be a way to educate convicts on what constitutes ethically acceptable behavior.

Corporate social responsibility

Some employers involve their staff in some kind of community service programming, such as with the United Way of America. This may be completely voluntary or a condition of employment, or anything in between.

Outside Canada

Community service in the United States is often similar to that in Canada. In Europe and Australia, community service is an option for many criminal sentences as an alternative to incarceration. In the United Kingdom, community service is now officially referred to by the Home Office as more straightforward "compulsory unpaid work".[3] Compulsory unpaid work includes up to 300 hours of activities, such as conservation work, cleaning up graffiti, or working with a charity. The Howard League for Penal Reform (the world's oldest prison reform organisation) is a prominent advocate for the increased use of community sentencing in order to reduce the prison population and improve the rehabilitation of those sentenced for criminal activity.

Starting in 2010, Danish High School students will receive a special diploma if they complete at least 20 hours of voluntary work.[4] However, a number of the students fear that this will remove focus from their education, and representatives from the labor union fear that it will move tasks from paid job to voluntary work.[5] Exchange students are warned that use of the term community service on a transcript may damage future career possibilities as it could indicate a criminal record.[6]

The International Baccalaureate program requires 50 hours of community service, together with a written reflection on the service performed, to fulfill the requirement of 150 hours of CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) and receive an IB Diploma.[7]

Example projects

  • Cleaning a park.
  • Collecting items for charity such as clothes, food, or furniture.
  • Getting involved with Habitat for Humanity
  • Cleaning roadside verges.
  • Helping the elderly in nursing homes.
  • Helping the local fire or police service.
  • Helping out at a local library.
  • Tutoring children with learning disabilities.
  • Cleaning nursing home gardens

See also


  1. ^ "community service". Memidex/WordNet Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  2. ^ High School Graduation Requirements Classes of 2008-Beyond, Seattle Public Schools, G10-00B, revised September 1, 2004
  3. ^ How we manage offenders, National Offender Management Service
  4. ^ Students to get recognition for volunteer work, Danish Ministry of Education, January 8, 2010
  5. ^ Frivilligt arbejde - en forfærdelig tendens, Det mener Joensen, August 27, 2009
  6. ^ Obama may work to reduce the number of exchange students, Exchange Student Info, December 26, 2009
  7. ^ Creativity, action, service (CAS), Diploma Programme curriculum—core requirements, homepage of the International Baccalaureate Organization

External links

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