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Navigating High School Volunteer Requirements

As high schoolers get back into the swing of the new school year, they’ll need to fulfill duties both inside and outside of the classroom.

With service hours required for high school graduations across the state, now’s the time to make sure your kids plan their volunteer efforts for the year.

The Maryland State Board of Education requires every public high school student to complete at least 75 service hours to graduate. In Anne Arundel County (AACPS), service hours are completed through classroom initiatives between fifth and twelfth grades. The curriculum begins in fifth grade with five hours, then continues with ten hours per year in middle school and high school. Each project is divided into three-steps: Preparation, Action, and Reflection. Preparation involves researching a need within the community and receiving any necessary training to complete the project. Action is taking the information or training learned and applying to the community directly, indirectly, or through advocacy. Finally, the students reflect on their service and the significant impact their actions have on the community. Students can earn additional service hours through service clubs, guidance activities, IB programs, as well as independent service projects.

Completing outside service projects can increase a student’s college acceptance chances as well as entrance into National Honors Society and other service-oriented clubs.
To help parents, the AACPS system released the Implementation Plan for 2017–2020, which highlights effects and importance of service in schools, here.

Similarly, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) requires the minimum 75 service hours as part of its instruction. However, these hours may be completed during the middle school grades with students performing 25 hours each year. For those who haven’t completed their hours by high school, students in Grades 10 through 12 can complete their hours through completing service-oriented courses such as Special Education Peer Assistant/Tutor Course, Leadership Community Service II, Leadership I/II, or Student Services Office or Assistant. Students may also participate in an independent service project or Student Service Learning activities (SSL). Guided by a high school instructor, the project must meet the minimum 75 hours and be approved by the school to fulfill the graduation requirements. This form of service is open to all middle and high grades. For more information, visit the HCPSS website, hcpss.org/academics/service-learning.

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Private school service hour requirements differ by school. However, students perform the same types of service activities. For example, the students at Archbishop Spalding need 60 hours over a four-year period to graduate. The school requires students to complete 25 of those 60 hours at outreach volunteer facilities such as Sarah’s House or the Light House Shelter. At Severn School, graduation requirements include 10 hours a year, where no more than two may be done at the school itself, and the rest must be direct service.

Serving one’s community opens a wide range of networks as well as positive outcomes such as scholarships and grants to those who dedicate themselves to helping others. Every year, high schools recognize the seniors who exemplified outstanding service in the community. Those who exhibited and performed excellent service are nominated by their schools for the Maryland State Department of Education Service Star Awards.

Click here for more service opportunities in Anne Arundel County, and here for opportunities in Howard County.

Need other ideas?

If you enjoy working with animals, find a local animal shelter to spend some time at the Maryland SPCA or the SPCA of Anne Arundel County. Both offer positions such as helping with events or with the animals themselves.

If you like helping those in need, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank needs volunteers year-round as sorters and office workers to help feed those who go hungry in our neighborhoods.

If you are a history fan or like working outdoors, the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine allows its volunteers to give speaking programs to the hundreds of visitors that come and tour the fort.

If you prefer a more hands-on approach or have a knack for building, the Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake located in Baltimore is always looking for volunteers to build houses for those less fortunate in the Chesapeake area.

If you are a patron of the arts, the Baltimore Museum of Art allows volunteers to become museum greeters and run education programs on exhibits and classes.

Kelly Szalankiewicz

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