For over a decade, the school’s community service waiver program has given students in grades 10, 11, and 12 the opportunity to commit to a season-long service project in place of participating on a sports team.
In order to complete a community service waiver, students must dedicate at least 40 hours—the school’s graduation requirement—to a service project at a single site of their choosing and at the end of the season write a 500-word essay reflecting on the experience. To apply for a community service waiver, a student must submit a form signed by an onsite supervisor that includes a work schedule and a short paragraph describing what the student’s role will be.
Community Service Co-Coordinator Meena Kaur said the waiver program allows students to set aside time in their schedules to strengthen bonds with communities beyond the school.
“The program was instated to honor kids who have strong commitments to community service organizations and would like to give even more of their time during the academic year,” she said.
Community Service Co-Coordinator Candie Sanderson added that ninth graders aren’t allowed to do service waivers because younger students should spend their first year getting to know others through sports.
Typically, 20 to 25 students participate in the community service waiver program per season, volunteering at organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, the Margaret Fuller House, and the Perkins School for the Blind. The school lists a range of suggested community service opportunities at bbns.org/community-service, but students are free to choose their own programs as long as they are not paid for their help and their involvement serves the community in some way, Ms. Sanderson said.
Students are allowed to take one season off for service per year. Many do more than one season off over the three years because of the meaningful connections they have made on site, she added.
“By spending 40 hours in one place that [they] have picked and applied to, [students] develop an understanding of the organization, whom they are serving, and how they fit in that organization as volunteers,” Ms. Sanderson said.
In the fall of his junior and sophomore years, Ethan Voligny ’19 visited the Boys and Girls Club of Arlington twice a week, each day spending an hour and a half working with children, helping them with homework or playing board games with them in its after-school program before leading drills and scrimmages in the club’s basketball program for another hour and a half.
Ethan said he appreciated the chance to work at the organization because he could fulfill his 40-hour community service graduation requirement while having a good time.
“I enjoyed working with kids from a range of different backgrounds, and I was happy to share my love of basketball with them,” he said.
Emory Sabatini ’18 also took a season off sports his sophomore year to volunteer at Margaret Fuller House. While there, he worked in an after-school program, performing a range of activities like assisting with homework, making snacks, setting up activities, and cleaning up. Emory said he felt that dedicating an entire season to community service allowed him to connect more deeply with the kids at the Margaret Fuller House than he could through hour-long visits during Mud Weeks alone.
“If you go once or twice, you don’t really get to know them, but going twice a week for 10 weeks allowed me to develop personal relationships with the kids, making the experience worthwhile,” he said. “Because it made an impact both on them and on me, it was such a wonderful experience.”