Both Mr. Perry and Dr. Reimer have been working hard to change Jesuit’s community service structure, making it easier for students to log and approve hours. The Roundup interviewed Mr. Perry and Dr. Reimer about the new changes and future plans for Jesuit’s community service.
Have there been any changes to community service so far?
Perry: “Yes, this has been a very important year. We’ve been trying to find some new ways of conceiving of how to best document the work that we’re doing. Although we still have the same amount of time required, we are talking about them in terms of projects.
Service shouldn’t be transactional, it should be relational. That’s the key shift, a shift from a transaction to a relationship. May 31st will be the last day we will accept x2Vol. We are also documenting the service experience, or the required service and justice experience, by giving students different options as to how to complete that experience. For instance, when a student does a leadership club at their grade level, i.e. Brothers for Others, for the entire year, that completes their service requirement for the grade level. We won’t be counting how many hours but rather the experience that the student has.”
Reimer: “The major changes for this year were implemented at the freshman level, next year it will be implemented at the sophomore level. This year’s freshman class are going to be the first to experience these changes as the community service is gradually changing. Our current seniors, juniors, and sophomores are under the old hourly tabulation system, while our freshman are under a project-based system. For their freshman year, instead of telling them they have to complete ten hours, which bogs everyone down and gives students an unhealthy view of service which makes them wrapped up in the numbers rather than the service. They had to complete one project in the fall through us and one project in the spring through us all from a certain list of projects: Manna for Others, Austin Street Center, Champions League, Hillcrest House, or St. Joseph’s Residence. All of these projects have a heavy relationship component that requires face-to-face time with people that are personally experiencing difficulty.
We wanted the freshman have to spend time with people rather than stacking cans at a food bank, which is still valuable work but should come after talking to people that are experiencing significant challenges. The freshman also had to participate in freshman service day, a day in the school calendar that took care of half of their service requirement, while the other half was taken care of by the one project in the fall and the other in the spring.
This came out to at minimum ten hours of service, which allows Jesuit to say that students are completing a minimum amount of service. The documentation was a lot easier, as I didn’t have to tabulate numbers, they just signed up for projects and we took attendance. Overall, this process was administratively easier, the experience was better, there was no worry for hours and the students got to enjoy the service they participated in.”
What advantages do you see coming from these changes?
Perry: “I think that the chief advantage is making the documentation of service hours process something that is more manageable for our students and teachers as well as more understandable for our parents so that they can access the information and receive reports on a regular basis from our office that explain more in-depth what their son has accomplished.”
Reimer: “This change just makes more sense administratively for us. Also, in terms of formulating a positive mindset around service, it puts guys in a better mental frame of mind. They sign up for a project with no worry about how long it is, they’re there because it’s something they enjoy. The guys no longer think about how many hours they need to do to meet the requirement, which is something that was always strange to me. It provides a healthier environment and provides a healthier perspective on service.
A challenge that we’ve experienced is that we’ve had to establish a system of validating which guys were present, accurately recording which guys were present which requires me beefing the Ignatian Service Corp staff so that I have enough guys at all the sites to guide, to mentor, and to set a positive example. It can be a little more complex logistically as it requires more from us to establish a system of accountability whereas we before we relied on the agency to provide that accountability. A lot of times there was no system of accountability there at all, so we’re going to see how this sophomore class does, where the students will have to complete 8 projects, a big jump from the 2 they completed their freshman year. It just means that many more contacts and people at service sites to hold guys accountable.”
Do you see the overall trend of doing community service increasing?
Perry: “The trend is upward, more kids involved with more projects every single week. We are having weeks with 17 projects. I think we are having a multiplication of programs and the desire of the student body to do more. Also, I think that the students are enjoying a more project-based approach. It’s a national trend that we are at the forefront of.”
Reimer: “A trend that I hope to see is the students’ community service is a better reflection of their interests, their passions, and their true concerns rather than doing things for the accumulation of hours so that their service is more directly tied to who they are as a person.
I think we’ll also have a better sense for who is genuinely being moved to do more because there’ not a quantity attached to service, necessarily. I think we’ll also see kids who are less confused or overwhelmed by the data and record-keeping that has been a part of the recording process.
I think that some people will fear that when we move to a system that’s more integrated and more project-based, we’ll see only the minimum or less because there’s not a prize attached to it or number attached to it. I don’t see that bearing out with the freshman so far. We’ve had a good percentage of freshman who have done more than the minimum that they were asked to do. They found a program that they really liked, and they did it several times. We have about the same percentage of students doing service outside of school as inside of school, which just proves we won’t see a decrease in participation in service activities.”
Are there any other changes that you see coming in the future?
Perry: “We’ve had some conversations about changes in the future of some things that are starting to come together and are exciting for students.”
Reimer: “For the sophomore year, one of the things we asked all the freshman to do in their guidance a couple of weeks ago was to do an evaluation over their freshman year service and indicate to us how they were intending to complete their sophomore year service. This is how we determine which population of students we really need to focus on.
For instance, for the students that said they’re going to travel with us over the summer, we automatically know that that’s a population of students that we don’t need to worry about. There’s a whole bunch of kids that said they were going to do their service during the school year. They had to identify if they were going to travel with us or join a service organization or do something on their own.
One of the changes that we made is getting a better sense of what the class wanted to do going into their sophomore year so that we know who to focus on and we know what type of assistance we need to provide to the different students. In previous years, every student got the same information, which is an information overload, but now certain students are getting information based on what they told us they wanted to do, which they can change at any moment. We’re hoping logistically it helps us move the boys through the process a little bit better than before. The list of approved projects that they’re going to be able to work on is going to be a lot smaller than previous years but bigger than their freshman year, which means there are more tailored and intentional opportunities for these students.
Junior year is still really wide open and we’re looking for changes and options for these incoming juniors.”
Mr. Perry and Dr. Reimer both are very optimistic about the new system that they’ve begun to implement and are hoping to provide a better experience for students when it comes to service. Stay tuned to The Roundup to get more updates about upcoming community service news!