Community service doesn’t just benefit the community — it can also help improve students’ mental health.
One of our goals at Oliverian is to facilitate a service-oriented relationship between our students and their communities — whether that’s on-campus or in the world around them. This sort of civic-mindedness doesn’t just boost our students’ academic profiles when applying to colleges and vocational schools — it helps the community thrive, and can even improve our students’ mental health.
The trend is clear: more and more high schools want students to complete community service hours before graduation. Some schools cite the need to remain competitive on college applications, while others strive to instill in students the urge to give back. Whatever’s driving it, this trend isn’t just taking place at the individual school level: an increasing number of states agree that community service should be a key part of a high school education, and have given local boards of education leeway to determine whether volunteering is a recommendation or a requirement.
Volunteering is more than a paragraph on a student’s college applications. Getting involved in local projects and community life can actually help students manage stress and anxiety. UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurer in the country, released a study that paints a powerful picture of the positive impact that volunteering can have on mental health. According to their research, 94 percent of people who volunteered within the past twelve months reported feeling better, while 78 percent of people from the same group said it’s helped them lower their stress levels. For students facing an understandably anxiety-inducing high school and college experience, these numbers lend support to Oliverian’s commitment to service-learning.
Oliverian students achieve success through stewardship by caring for our campus and by engaging in service-learning projects on a local, regional, national, and international level. Campus stewardship activities may include managing the trails and woodlands and helping to maintain the dormitories. Oliverian students reach out to the local community through stewardship activities such as chopping, stacking, delivering, and donating cords of wood to local families in need of heat assistance for the winter. Nationally and internationally, Oliverian students support their global community through Electives Week service-learning trips to places like the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and St. Croix.
Stewardship at Oliverian encourages self-exploration, spirituality, character formation, and integrity by allowing students to explore their interdependent relationships with others and with the natural world. Our students derive a sense of accomplishment as they maintain the natural habitat of local wildlife, or hold a bake sale to raise money that then funds a meal they prepare at a nearby homeless shelter. Students also learn to cook in our professional kitchen in our Culinary Arts classes. These classes are a form of stewardship, as they are instrumental in the preparation of lunch for our community.
Just this past Thanksgiving, Oliverians baked pies and brought them to the local food shelter. These experiences empower our students to balance their individual needs with those of the community. And while these acts of service take place within the context of our school, the enthusiasm students have for helping others is genuine enough to sustain a passion for service long after graduation.