Questioning the Community Service Requirement

How Do We Live Up to Brebeuf’s Ideals?


To say that community service is an important part of Brebeuf’s teaching is a dramatic understatement. Brebeuf prides itself on holding the virtue of serving others to the core of its learning experience. Community service has also been an integral part of my life, serving in multiple roles and numerous ways through the Jospeh Maley Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving children of all abilities, with a focus on disabilities, founded by my family in honor of my late brother, an organization that has been as much a part of my life as anything else. I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate community service work, especially what I do through JMF.

Junior year at Brebeuf, students are required to at the minimum participate in ten hours of community service work, specifically with organizations that directly affect marginalized people, in order to pass the Social Justice Class. Alongside this, Juniors and Seniors are required to at some point take a PRT class called Community Service, in which they must work forty hours of the same kind of service. The reason for this is pretty clear: the motto of Brebeuf is “Men and Women for Others,” and what better way to fulfill that then through community service?

All that being said, however, is it valid to require a set number of hours as a course requirement? Doesn’t it go against the entire idea that serving others should be done to the best of our talents and out of the goodness of our hearts?

First of all, it is very important that Brebeuf as a school attempts to teach the value of not only thinking of others but of acting for others. Too often I feel like certain students lord themselves over others, pretentiously acting like they care more about others while simultaneously not doing any actions of the sort. These required service hours give us a chance to live up to these ideals and idea that Brebeuf is a person-oriented school.

That being said, I often have difficulty with the rigidity of the requirements. There is a strict curriculum and criteria for where and how someone can serve for their hours. A student has to choose a location on a pre-approved list that is in direct contact with citizens of a marginalized population, that meaning things that serve the poor, handicapped, abused, hungry, etc. directly like food-banks, tutoring, or volunteering in a nursing home for the disabled such as me. Because of this, I am disallowed from counting the hours I pour into my work through JMF, as it is often behind-the-scenes work and education about disability awareness.

To me, at least, it seems counter-productive to disallow me from serving in a manner that I truly resonate with and am passionate about and corresponds with my talents. Anyone can work at a soup kitchen as a one-off thing, but it takes true passion and commitment to invest as much time and effort as being the president of the Junior Board requires, and being so teaches me more of a lesson than anything else I have ever done.

I understand why community services hours are an enforced requirement. Without that, many people would put it off, and would not develop the relationships and learn the lessons they would have by participating. But at the same time, it strips away some of the reasoning behind the work. Many a times I have caught myself thinking of my community service requirement as a chore, to be done in a timely fashion just like homework in order to get a grade, which is completely contradictory to the idea and I realize that.

All-in-all, while I can find several faults with the current model of how community service works at Brebeuf, I can think of no better legitimate solution. Brebeuf and community service go hand in hand; it is a necessity.