Where is the Student Service Initiative?

Where is the Student Service Initiative?


As a Catholic school, one of our core values at Seton is the call to service. Seton partakes in numerous service and volunteering projects throughout the year, such as the annual potato harvest, Thanksgiving food drive, and Operation Christmas Child. However, it seems that in recent years, there has been a downtick in student involvement and initiative to get involved in service opportunities. What has caused this lack of involvement? What can we do to help build a thriving service network?

Several factors have contributed to the current predicament of our school’s service outreach, a major one being the Covid-19 pandemic. As students were sent home for the quarantine period of 2020, they did not have access to the opportunities provided by the school for volunteering, not to mention staying home instead of venturing into the community. Even three years later, we are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic. Theology teacher Jan DeAngelo commented, “Kids were used to being home. They had almost a year’s worth of having to do things on their own, so there’s that lack of community spirit that needs to be developed again.” 

The Covid-19 pandemic would have a great effect on our service and volunteering opportunities at Seton

As we emerge back from the pause Covid put on our service initiatives, there have been fewer service opportunities offered than pre-pandemic. Sister B believes that “given the chance, more students would, I think, volunteer for service, but we have not developed a service ‘department’ which promotes and provides service opportunities for the students.” Students seem to agree that it has been harder to find volunteering opportunities through the school: “You don’t see a lot of posters and announcements for volunteering opportunities unless you’re part of a club. Students may not see that there are things going on they can partake in,” sophomore Sophia Burr commented.  

A lack of interest in service also presents itself in the student body. Sophomore Alexandra Back said, “a lot of students don’t think volunteering is that important, even though it is crucial, especially for getting into college.” Ms. Mondolfi, who is a part of senior class planning, explained how difficult it has been for her to try to get kids to help out with fundraising and other opportunities: “I think that more kids are more involved with things like Seton’s fan club than worrying about things that have to do with the community, volunteering, and service hours.”

As crucial as volunteering and service are, students have other commitments that may tend to take priority over the act of charity. Head of houses Olivia Boustani explained “Students are already dedicating 5 out 7 days of their week to school. On top of that, students have commitments to extracurricular activities that occupy the rest of their free time.” Whether it be sports, clubs, a job, doing schoolwork, or finding a moment to have some time to themselves, students are constantly engaged in some kind of activity, and it may be challenging to find time to dedicate to volunteering. 

Despite these difficulties, there are ways we can build a strong student service initiative in our Seton community. Seeing as students have limited time outside of school to do service work, we can find ways to work acts of service into our school day. If we were able to develop a service committee (consisting of parents, students, and school employees), this group could brainstorm ideas of opportunities to offer students during their free periods, such as making cards for the sick or elderly, working in the gardens behind the school, peer tutoring, and endless other options. “There’s a healthy mix of ways to bolster opportunities both in and out of school, and the sky’s the limit in stealing ideas from here, there, and everywhere,” said Mr. Jones.

Seton’s Thrift Shop Service Project is an exemplar of new, fun ways to serve those less in need.

Communicating service opportunities to students in a more effective way would help boost student involvement in volunteering as well. Using social media platforms like Instagram, (such as the Seton Catholic Central or SCC Junior Fan Club pages), as well as more posters and announcements around the school would help students recognize the opportunities available to them. 

 There is the option to draw students into projects by offering rewards such as dress-down days and points toward House Olympics, but to quote Sister B, these are not “..hands-on, heart-in” efforts. If we truly want students to get more involved in service and volunteering, then having students themselves propose service project ideas would allow them to partake in an activity they find interesting. Being able to participate in acts of service that correspond with a student’s own likes and hobbies would motivate them to find genuine enjoyment in service and encourage them to keep doing it.

 Finding more incentivized and meaningful opportunities for students to partake in would have a great impact on students’ views of service. Offering more impactful opportunities, or allowing students to see the impact of their work may motivate them to get involved in a service project they find a passion for or one that is eye-opening, inspiring them to take deeper meaning from the work they’ve done and hopefully do it again. 

Seton Students volunteering at the Spiedie Fest

For example, allowing students to help distribute goods they’ve collected for a food drive to those in need at a food bank, church or charitable organization would allow them to see how important service and volunteer work truly is. Olivia Boustani explained how connecting with an elderly Hispanic woman in a nursing home would lead her to come back to this act of service over and over: “Becoming a vessel for her stories to reside, I felt purposeful. I felt fulfilled knowing I made such an impact on someone’s life. I hope to bring opportunities like this to Seton and allow students the joy of feeling accomplished and seeing the positive outcomes of their actions unfold before their eyes. ” 

There is no doubt that the Service Initiative at Seton is lacking in opportunities, volunteers, organization, and free time. This is due to a variety of reasons, like the Covid-19 pandemic, and lack of communication, motivation, and resources. Nonetheless, working together as a community, under the example of Christ will help us build an impactful service program. As Sister B explained, “Service, care for the poor and suffering, lifting up the oppressed and marginalized, and loving and valuing the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters are inseparable from our Catholic identity. It is what we do because it is who we are.”