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Should kids have to volunteer?

Many teens who volunteer learn valuable lessons that can last a lifetime. While performing community service, kids develop leadership skills, build self-esteem, and make new friends.

Community service can include volunteering in soup kitchens, libraries, or nursing homes. And helping the community can extend beyond one's own neighborhood. For example, many kids across the U.S. have organized bake sales or other fund-raising efforts to aid victims of December's tsunami disaster in South Asia and East Africa (see "Kids Who Care, "p. 5).

Everyone agrees about the benefits of volunteering. But many schools now require kids to perform community service. In Maryland, it's even the law--a high-school student must log 75 hours of community service in order to graduate.

What do you think? Should kids have to volunteer?

YES

Helping others is also a way of helping yourself. One study showed that volunteers gain higher self-esteem, new friendships, and important social skills through community service. Requiring kids to volunteer could lead them to discover hidden interests and talents.

"I think kids should [be required to] volunteer," says John Webster, a seventh-grader at Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Pleasant Hill, Illinois. "Volunteering is a cool thing, and it's a great learning experience," adds the 12-year-old. "Kids might learn about a career or a job they may want later, or they might learn something about themselves."

NO

Forcing someone to perform community service goes against the spirit of volunteering. Helping others and improving the community are great things to do, but they should not be part of an obligation or a requirement.

"Kids might regret not [volunteering], but that is their decision to make," says Kirsten Poulin, 12. The sixth-grader at St. Peter and Sacred Heart School in Auburn, Maine, believes that kids will miss the benefits of community service if it is a required activity.

"If kids are forced to volunteer, then it won't be fun," she says. "And they will just complain all the time. If someone decides to volunteer, it should come from the heart."
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Title Annotation:Debate
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 7, 2005
Words:336
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