Importance of Volunteerism Among Students

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Society’s expectations of students today has allowed the youngest generation to degrade in morality, specifically in mindful community service and volunteering. These expectations may include involvement in community service, athletics, clubs, the arts, rigorous academic courses or advanced programs, and other extracurricular activities. Additional expectations include maintaining a meritable grade point average and a respectable character. Students’ involvement in these activities and achievements is highly encouraged, but it can be assumed that only those students who push the boundaries on multiple commitments are the most considerable for particular recognitions.

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These recognitions may include membership in honor societies, acceptance to college, job offers, leadership positions, resume boosters, and so on. It is commonly known that mMembership in honor societies, such as National Honor Society and National BETA Club, require logged community service hours and completion of service projects. Studious members of these groups, no matter how committed, complete the requirements for membership, but perhaps only for the purpose of applications for colleges, to say they have participated in it, to graduate with an honor society chord, or other less than satisfactory reasons. Furthermore, this is all also assuming that students of today have the capacity to live up to all of to these expectations along with the social pressures that come from family, superiors, and peers. All of these expectations take time from today’s busy students who may not have the time to think about the importance of volunteering and the moral reasoning behind it. This problem poses a threat to the morals of students today.

Some college level studies researched within the past five years support the idea that the younger generation needs some kind of motivation in order to volunteer (Hustinx). This may seem obvious, however, motivating factors can be different for every individual (Hustinx). For example, College Student Journal, a peer-reviewed journal based in Alabama directed to an audience of college level students, published a study that investigated the setting that college students most prefer to volunteer in and what personal factors may affect that (Moore, et al). Previous research included in the publication supported the fact that there has been a decline in volunteering for age groups within high school students and college students, with the drastic decline being within the the older age group (Moore, et al). Approximately 30% of students between sixteen and nineteen years old reported volunteering in 2013, while less than 20% of college- aged students reported volunteering (Moors, et al).

Other than age, the factors investigated included gender, personal reasons for volunteering, demographics, college-related circumstances, religion, volunteer history, and type of volunteering (Moore, et al). Data was collected through a survey and measured through single-choice and numeric-rated questions. The study found females were more likely to volunteer rather than males; students who reported volunteering before were more likely to be currently participating in volunteer activities; students who participate in Greek life (fraternities and sororities) were more likely to be be currently participating in volunteer activities; demographic data collected from the college students did not correlate to volunteer status; students who reported having volunteered previously were most likely to have volunteered with health related services or services most related to the students’ major; (Moore, et al). Furthermore, the study found that the greatest reasons for students to be volunteering included general values and understanding (Moore, et al). The study’s essential result is that the students are more likely to volunteer within a service related to their field of study/a self-established interest and for the reasons of “altruistic volunteering” and gaining knowledge from experience (Moore, et al).

Volunteering and participation in community service is a tangible outlet that leads to the development of moral standards and denefitting knowledge that comes through experience (Moore, et al). It is not a person’s civic duty to take part in community service;, however, a citizen in touch with their understanding of civic responsibilities would understand the importance in doing so (Longo, et al). In an article published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, two colleges, Providence College and Saint Mary’s College of California, outline programs and majors offered that encourage the development of “democratic citizens” and their effect on graduates in those programs and majors (Longo, et al). The program offered at Providence College, Public and Community Service Studies (PSP), specifically helps students build leadership skills and coursework requires at least 550 hours of service within the community (Longo, et al). Saint Mary’s College relatively newer program of study, Justice, Community, and Leadership Program (JCL), is similar to that of Providence College (Longo, et al). JCL also gives students the opportunity to be an active member of the community without compromising their higher education by engaging in the core values of the college and a liberal arts degree (Longo, et al). College students attending these schools who participate in these focused programs are able to spend an extensive amount of time in volunteering in the community (Longo, et al). Other colleges and universities should look towards Providence College and Saint Mary’s College of California as an example of the benefits of offering courses/majors/programs that integrate civic learning so that students are given the opportunity and choice to become better citizens.

Another survey-based research project published by College Student Journal concerned the creation of an experiment designed around testing Aristotle’s theory of deliberation (Lin, et al). Aristotle’s theory states that, “moral deliberation is supposed to find reasons, which may lead us to renounce spurious moral beliefs in pursuit of authentic goodness,” (Lin, et al). In terms of volunteerism, this means that a person who takes the moral factors of participating in community service is more likely to be genuinely involved and engaged with volunteering. The purpose behind this experiment was to find a correlation between deliberation, critical thinking and students’ engagement in volunteering at a nursing home (Lin, et al). The purpose of this experiment was to find and analyze the trends relating to the variables involving a college student’s engagement in volunteering (Lin, et al). The results was comprised of the responses of college students to the survey questionnaire (Lin, et al). The survey consisted of questions concerning the respondent’s deliberative beliefs and critical thinking where the possible responses ranged on a rating scale on whether the responder strongly agreed or strongly disagreed with the question (Lin, et al). The results of the survey supported Aristotle’s theory of deliberation with that fact that the college students’ responses held a positive correlation of their deliberative beliefs to critical thinking as well as a positive correlation of deliberative beliefs to engagement in volunteering at a nursing home (Lin, et al).

The decline in volunteering and community service participation can be observed in the local Relay for Life organizations of Chesterfield, Virginia (Burton; Rich). Relay for Life is a fundraising organization that raises awareness for cancer and the American Cancer Society (American Cancer Society). Funds raised through Relay for Life go to research; charitable treatments, lodging, and transportation; sponsored Relay for Life Events that happen all over the United States; and towards the American Cancer Society employees that make resources available and fundraising events possible (American Cancer Society). Relay for Life events are planned from the beginning of September and held within mid-May to the beginning of June the following year (American Cancer Society). In between the time spent planning the event, teams within the event’s community register members and raise money throughout the year, leading up to the final fundraising event where all teams and the community come together for a day spent commemorating all lives affected by cancer (Burton). Relay for Life events are generally consist of fundraising booths set up by teams and activities that allow the community to engage in (American Cancer Society).

In 2012, Chesterfield County held two Relay for Life events that took the Northern and Southern parts of the county into consideration (American Cancer Society). Each named the Relay for Life Event of James River and the Relay for Life Event of Courthouse respectfully (American Cancer Society). By 2015, the Event Leadership Team (ELT) from the Northern Event disbanded causing the loss of nearly 450 participants in the area, half of them being youths (American Cancer Society). Meanwhile, the Southern Event lost its event venue, Lloyd C. Bird High School, and lost participants due this as well (American Cancer Society). The following year, the Northern and Southern Events combined to create one large community event (American Cancer Society). By this time, no more than 300 participants came to the combined Relay for Life Event of Chesterfield (American Cancer Society). Assuming the Northern and Southern events had approximately the same amount of participation in years past before the dissolution of an ELT and loss of a venue, nearly 66% of participants lost with majority of that percentage being youth volunteers (American Cancer Society). It was not until the Relay for Life Event of Chesterfield 2018 that participation had increased after a new Event Leadership Team was formed (American Cancer Society).

Laura Burton is an American Cancer Society staff partner who works alongside Relay for Life Event Leadership Teams to be the connection between the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life Events (Burton). Burton has been involved in the Relay for Life community since 2007 and was the ACS staff partner for the Relay for Life of Chesterfield in 2015 (Burton). Through an interview, Burton expressed that, “there has been a decline in youth participation amongst all grade levels,” within Relay for Life events (Burton). She believes that the decline in participation may be due to youth’s participation in other “worthy causes” that youths put their time towards (Burton). Adrienne Rich, a 24 year cancer survivor and another ACS staff partner who is currently working with the Relay for Life of Chesterfield Event, has only recently began her involvement in Relay for Life, but has observed the same trend as Burton (Rich). In Rich’s separate interview, she mentions that in her own research of Relay for Life, she found that the entire organization has lost youth participation throughout the years (Rich). Rich recognizes the fact that youths are more so part of other extracurricular activities that take up their time, as well as their family’s weekends (Rich). The lack of time the the younger generation has due to the increased involvement in other time consuming activities has lead to an observable decline in youth participation in volunteering through Relay for Life (Burton; Rich).

Losing the younger generation’s involvement in Relay for Life, and volunteering in the community in general, will havecause a detrimental effect on society. The ideas sparked from young minds is what helps organizations like Relay for Life to continue and thrive (Rich). Without the relatable ideas, not to mention the parental support that comes comes with youth involvement, events will struggle if success cannot come from ideas already used in the past (Burton). Furthermore, Rich points out that early involvement in organizations like Relay for Life help, “Youth participants… [learn] the importance of giving back, something that will help shape and mold them for the reminder of their lives. Being involved as a youth also helps to build the future event leaders,” (Rich). The younger generation is the future of everything, not just volunteer organizations.

However, just because this may seem to be a problem locally or concentrated in the United States, it does not mean it is a problem elsewhere (Hustinx). For example, a the Canadian Journal of Sociology published an article that compared the perspectives of volunteerism in western countries, like Canada, and eastern countries like China (Hustinx). The article confirms that in Chinese culture, it is expected that all citizens participate in the giving back to the community, while in Canada, volunteering is a free choice, but much more widely practiced voluntarily in comparison to the United States (Hustinx). Furthermore, as seen in athe study published by the College Student Journal that analyzes the factors that motivate college students to volunteer, there are many factors that influence students’ choices to volunteer (Moore). Additionally, in a different survey-based study published by the College Student Journal, the quality of work done by three different groups of college students was tested (Omori). The groups being, students who voluntarily participated in survey-taking, students who received extra-credit for completing a survey, and students who were required to volunteer on an hourly basis (Omori). The purpose of this study was to discover if there was a correlation between the number of surveys taken (and not taken) within each type of student groups (Omori). After data was collected and analyzed, no significant difference was found between each student group and the number of surveys taken (and not taken) (Omori). This means, the quality of surveys, and work done through any activity, will allow for effective research, and technically produce a positive impact regardless of voluntary action, required action, or a given incentive, will reach participants effectively (Omori).

Nonetheless, it is still possible for the problem observed with youth volunteering today in the Chesterfield community to be observed in communities nationwide, or even worldwide (Hustinx). Without students’ consideration of the moral development and reasoning for participating in volunteering, society’s future leaders are in civic jeopardy (Lin; Longo; Rich). The point is the younger generation has lost sight in the value of performing community service (Moore, et al). It’s more than just service hours and protects – it is passion and the desire to give back and make difference – to leave an everlasting legacy (Rich).

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Importance of Volunteerism Among Students. (2021, Apr 21). Retrieved from