October 27, 2014


Making An Impact: Better Than An "A"

By Shayla Sandoval


“I have to do at least one service interim; my mom’s making me.”

“How many service clubs are you joining?”

“I have to become the leader of a service club eventually because it looks good.”


These are words I hear tossed around at the HKIS High School almost on a daily basis. These exchanges may not seem like a problem, but when they are lined up together, the motives of students participating in service appear questionable. They make the concept of service seem like a chore or requirement, which it isn’t and should never be. In a school where students can get caught up in the competitive, future-oriented atmosphere, it is easy to lose sight of the real, society-oriented reasons for participating in service.


Service should not be done solely for the sake of receiving a good grade or to mention on a college application. The genuine feeling that you get after making a difference in someone’s life is reward enough. However, in a school where students are driven and pushed to constantly be thinking about grades and colleges, alternate benefits sometimes overshadow that.

Mr. Schmidt, a Humanities teacher, says that the challenge teachers face is “helping people transition from a success orientation to a soul orientation, that is ultimately more satisfying.”


The Humanities 1 In Action course includes a service project called the Elixir Project, in which students can pick any area to work in to make a difference in society. For seven years the project was not graded. In an interview, Mr. Schmidt mentioned that he noticed the quality of the projects declining, as some students wanted to spend more time on projects for other subjects that were graded, and would have impact on their GPA.


Last school year, the Humanities Department made a compromise and attached a slight percentage increase or decrease in semester grade to the project. Mr. Schmidt said that after the change, the quality of the projects appeared to have improved.


This is not surprising, given the academically competitive atmosphere at HKIS. Yash Bardoloi (10) took part in the class, and felt that “from an immediate perspective, people genuinely cared about their projects and the impact they made.” Even with the grading attached, students did have real connections with their work. Bardoloi went on to say that in the long term he is “skeptical that many people continued with their projects or cared about the projects’ impact.”


Society has and will always be like this: people will forever have alternate, more self-oriented reasons for doing things. In the case of our school, this is not necessarily always a bad thing: even if some students are participating in service activities for selfish reasons, work is still being done to better the community. Ed Tsui, an HKIS alumnus who now lives and works in Hong Kong, says that even though students at HKIS sometimes have other motives for doing service, “the practice of serving becomes ingrained in a student’s muscle memory during their high school years – like riding a bike. It is a skill set that students can often tap into later in life.”


We as a school should strive to take advantage of the opportunities we have to help others right now, during our high school career, as well as later on in life. We should not take the element of compassion and priceless soul enriching benefits for granted by ignoring them simply to make ourselves look better. While focus on grades is important, we should all strive to embrace the opportunity to serve our community: the impact made outlasts any 4.0 on a transcript.



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