Community service becomes graduation requirement


There are other Bay Area districts doing this. In 2002, San Jose Unified decided that students must complete 40 hours of community service over four years in order to graduate. Now Novato schools want their students to be part of the Civic Generation.

Keenan McCarron is putting in the hours volunteering at his school. His buddy Lance McQuinn leads the project.

"We are currently redoing the sign here; we are going to replace this with new redwood planks and shine up the letters and get it all back together," McQuinn said.

From now on, high school students in Novato will have to volunteer 10 hours of community service a year, 40 hours over four years.

"I like the experience and just the kindness; I like working with people," McCarron said.

Students who do not participate will not graduate.

The principal of San Marin High School came up with the proposal and the school board approved it. He says volunteering can help boost a student's chances of getting into college.

"It's a pretty good way for schools that value that kind of thing to make a determination about particular students," Robert Vieth said.

But some believe mandatory volunteerism is a contradiction in terms.

""If you are going to volunteer you have to sort of do it from within, it shouldn't be something that is mandated on you," Novato High School Principal Rey Mayoral said.

Despite holding that position for several weeks, Mayoral has since changed his mind. He did get the board to agree to allow some students to opt out.

"Where you do have circumstances where students are working full-time to help their parents, or there are medical issues, maybe some of our special education students that are not able to work independently and may need some supervision," Mayoral said.

Each school will keep track of the hours.

Studies point out after high school, students continue to volunteer. In 2005, a report showed that 3.3 million college students were doing some kind of community service, up 20 percent since Sept 11. The Federal Corporation for National and Community Service, which tracks these numbers, has set a goal; they want that number to go up to five million college students volunteering.

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