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What does community service mean to you? Explain how you have benefited your community.
In my school “community service” generally implies hours of monotonous work that is rewarded by service points. However, this year my school has offered a different form of community service, one that would require hours of my time on a daily basis and would remove the coveted senior privilege of early dismissal. The program is entitled Peer Group Connection (PGC), where a selected group of seniors are broken into pairs and assigned to a group of freshmen—in my case sixteen of them—to watch over, befriend, discipline, and formally instruct once a week. Our roles in their lives were to help them grow comfortable and excel in school, but we were encouraged to help them with any outside problems they might encounter. The PGC experience gave me perspective on my life while helping my school’s ninth graders adjust to the intimidating high school environment.
Peer Group Connection allowed me to witness the struggles and hardships that teenagers battle and reminded me of the difficulties that arise when adjusting to a new environment. I unfortunately witnessed the unimaginably difficult problems of many freshmen; whether it was domestic problems or own personal battles, the students had an extremely hard time maintaining both their grades and composure. My presence as an older, concerned teenager gave many of my freshmen the opportunity to discuss their problems and focus on their schoolwork.
However, Peer Group Connection does realize that grades are not the most important aspect of excelling in high school. Other than grades, PGC strives to help the freshmen attend school on a regular basis, behave appropriately during their classes and improve relations at home. These interventions lessened the tremendous stress that many freshmen encountered and encouraged communication between students and parents, making home relations more amiable. We held a Family Night event at the school, where both our students and their parents came for a lesson in improving parent-child relations and activities. The parents were thrilled, amazed by their teenager’s unprecedented passion in speaking during our group discussions and the evident connection their child established with PGC leaders.
In just a few months, I have seen tremendous growth in many of my freshmen—in particular one freshman named Katelyn. When I first met Katelyn at freshmen orientation she was apprehensive about high school, afraid of change, getting lost, and the infamous “freshmen Friday.” However, now she is involved in the school play and a member of numerous clubs, and was even elected into class office. Although I know that every student will not be molded into someone like her, viewing her success and growth was deeply rewarding.
Simply having the opportunity to meet and acquaint myself with freshmen was a worthwhile experience, but nothing I have ever previously done has been as rewarding and successful as the peer group program. I know that I cannot save every student from failures and making mistakes, but I would like to think that the few that I have guided have appreciated my help and will ultimately direct others along their way to finding success.
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