High school students volunteering at events, theaters, and around town are familiar sights in Agoura Hills and Calabasas. While these teens are filling a great need for volunteers, they are also acquiring Service Learning hours.
The Service Learning program in Las Virgenes Unified requires that high school students must complete 60 hours of service in order to graduate. Both Agoura and Calabasas High Schools have lists of ongoing or temporary opportunities that students can participate in to acquire their hours. These opportunities range from helping out at the elementary school registration days to assisting at animal shelters or community cleanup events.
The idea behind Service Learning isn't just about community service, although that's a key factor in this requirement of our students. "The purposes of service learning are to instill a mindset of taking action in the community and to offer students a sense of purpose as members of a broader community," says Ryan Gleason, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Categorical Programs for the District.
"It's also about exposing the students to activities that they might be interested as career pathways," adds Rachel Kay, program coordinator at Calabasas High School. "I always start by asking the students 'What are you interested in?'" If a student says she wants to become a doctor, she can volunteer at a hospital, for example.
Shelley Diament, program coordinator at Agoura High School, says they have expanded the opportunities to make Service Learning even more accessible to the students, considering their courseloads and other time constraints. They can volunteer to help their teachers, the school custodians, the child nutrition program, or even tack on volunteer hours at their paying after-school jobs so they can accumulate Service Learning hours.
The same type of streamlined opportunities make it possible for busy student-athletes, musicians, artists, and any students who are involved in time-consuming extracurricular activities to get their hours in with service. Actors can help at the ticket booth at theater performances. Cheerleaders can participate as instructors at cheer clinics for children. Tech enthusiasts can serve on the school tech team or at Senior Genius Club.
The students themselves are empowered to seek out, volunteer, and keep track of their service hours. Each school has a website that lists the opportunities, but they can also bring their own ideas into the mix. Kay remembers a student who traveled abroad to help build toilets in a developing country, and was able to have that mission count as service hours. Students actually log the hours for service learning credit only after they have submitted their Service Learning sheet, which requires a self-evaluation. "Reflections are required," says Diament. "It's an important part of what they are learning."
Kay says that with continuous reminders, she hopes that seniors will remember to complete their hours in time for graduation. There are still many events that need volunteers, including fundraisers, carnivals, and theatrical events. Agoura High School will be holding its second Service Learning Fair on March 8 during nutrition period on the quad, for its students stop by and check out opportunities to come. Representatives from the Dole Great Race, the cities of Agoura Hills and Malibu will be on site to answer questions and help students sign up.