NHS Candidates Should Serve the Greater Good, Not Themselves

By Mairead Mark, Sports Editor

For some, service is a fundamental part of their lives. They strive to serve their neighborhoods, communities and overarching society so that they can contribute to the greater good outside the four walls of their home. Nowadays, some form of service is commonly required on applications to various organizations and institutions, and many schools even require a minimum number of service hours for students to graduate.

Since its inception, Trinity Hall has not required service hours because of the general belief that making service a necessity, rather than a voluntary endeavor, undermines the true essence of service: a selfless action derived from an individual’s heart without any ulterior motives. The issue of required service at Trinity Hall has recently resurfaced as the school discusses starting a National Honor Society (NHS) chapter in the near future.

Each academic year, an estimated one million students are members of the NHS, a national organization with many chapters and an overarching goal of recognizing students who exhibit excellence in scholarship, service, leadership and character. Since service is one of the four pillars that embody a NHS candidate, the national organization encourages chapters to require applicants and members to perform a minimum number of service hours. Understandably, this recommendation has been met with controversy at Trinity Hall over whether or not our forthcoming chapter should adopt a service requirement for NHS candidates.

Before the application deadline, high school students across the country meticulously log the minutes of their service in order to achieve the minimum hours that deem them an acceptable candidate to apply to their NHS chapter. Volunteering at various organizations (but, is it really volunteering if they are forced to do it?), students complete their hours with a single underlying goal in mind: to be considered a NHS candidate. The acquisition of service hours just for the sake of being able to proudly pen it down on paper devalues the meaning of the service. Each NHS candidate understandably must be able to demonstrate her commitment to serve the greater good; however, proving that commitment with a single recorded number can mislead a student’s perception of the true purpose of their service.

Each NHS candidate should possess the desire to serve others as a foundation of her character, not a quality that is externally motivated in order to belong to an organization. That extrinsic goal transforms service from being selfless to being self-serving. Instead of requiring a certain amount of service hours, NHS candidates at Trinity Hall could instead write an essay about how community service has affected them as an individual or what they are able to take away from each experience when they serve others. This way, the pillar of service remains as one of the four that define the NHS members but in a way that allows students to focus on the greater purpose and impact of that service rather than mechanically clocking the time spent serving.

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