Double Duty: Getting School Credit for Volunteering

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Volunteering is a powerful thing. Not only that, it’s good for your soul, your professional development, and your community. Fortunately, many high schools (and universities) agree.

Even better, more and more schools are starting to offer academic credit for students tackling volunteer projects or community service. For some schools—particularly schools that are either religiously affiliated or have a career-based curriculum—volunteering has been a graduation requirement for years. For other schools, volunteering is a newly emerging part of the high school experience.

Frequently, you’ll hear the term service learning to describe the arrangement where students gain credit for volunteering (here’s a video that gives more scoop on this concept). Essentially, it’s a way to engage with your community and take part in hands-on activities that help you learn in an entirely different way than you’d learn in a classroom. If you’re someone who learns best through hands-on experiences, or simply wants to give back to your community, it’s a wonderful option.

What might you do? The options are as endless as your imagination and initiative, but check out this link from the National Youth Leadership Council for some cool examples of service learning projects taken on by high school students.

So, if you’re already volunteering—or if you’re thinking you’d like to start volunteering—be sure to check on the possibility of earning credit. Here are some places to start, and things to know:

  • If your school has a Career Center, check with them. Because hands-on      experience like volunteering is so integral to choosing a career direction (and building a resume), Career Centers often have great information about what’s out there, and where other students may have volunteered in the past.
  • You MUST talk with your school counselor. Don’t just assume that volunteering is the key to opting out of that sociology class. Double-check!
  • Be prepared to prove it. Earning credit for volunteering isn’t necessarily as simple as filling out a form that says you painted houses for a summer. Often there are specific requirements for the number of hours and the nature of the work you did. You may also have to complete an additional assignment, such as an essay or portfolio that provides details about your experience and personal reflection. Again, it’s critical that you check with your school counselor to find out the specifics.

**For more information about service learning and ideas about what you can do to earn credit, check out the National Service-Learning Clearing House website.

Have you received school credit for volunteering? How did you find the volunteer opportunity? What steps did you take to ensure you received credit?

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