Students discover creative ways to earn SSL hours

Elli Jacobs, Features Writer

Volunteering doesn’t always have to be boring.

In fact, it promotes memorable life experiences and social benefits. 

As part of the MCPS curriculum, students entering sixth grade begin volunteering through their enrollment in the Student Service Learning program. 

Middle schoolers can accumulate hours through completing projects in their health, English and science classes. High school students also have opportunities to earn hours by demonstrating full participation in their National, State and Local (NSL) government classes and also completing their Middle Years Programme (MYP) Personal Project in sophomore year. 

Maryland state requires students to obtain at least 75 hours before graduating. Students who achieve over 260 hours are given a special award and a purple tassel during their senior year graduation ceremony. 

There is a range of volunteer opportunities open to students across the county.

Richard Montgomery’s RMBC telecast often presents SSL opportunities within clubs and the community. Students can also view emails sent by the College and Career Center.

“I rely on the college center and the emails they send out, because they’re normally really good opportunities,” sophomore Aisosa Ojo-Odiase said. 

The MCPS website itself contains a server dedicated to upcoming SSL opportunities. Students can filter out the list to find a match, based on personal preference and experience.

“The hub is a really great resource because it has access to all the ways you can find SSL activities and has access to SSL forms,” SSL Coordinator Ms. Evan Anderson said. 

Upon entering high school, freshmen are exposed to hundreds of more opportunities, which can feel overwhelming. 

“Getting friends to get SSL hours with you definitely makes the experience more fun. Also, don’t procrastinate,” junior Peter Kim said. 

As intimidating as they appear, these long lists provide so many different events that pertain to different student interests. 

“Find something that caters to your hobbies, or create something. There are clubs for everything in this school and you might find one you like that caters to your hobbies,” Ojo-Odiase said. 

Many RM students have used their personal interests to participate in related SSL events. 

From decorating homecoming hallways, for the more artistically minded, to volunteering in food drives or teaching at local churches, the diversity in opportunities correlates with the diversity in student interests. 

Common activities revolve around donation drives, because of their social nature, and the lack of necessity for trained skills or experience.

“I see the Manna Food Center or Interfaith Clothing or the City of Rockville. Lots of stuff that happens just within the school, like the Rocket Helpers club puts on a ton of SSL hours for students,” Ms. Anderson said. 

The goal of the SSL requirement is to ensure that students develop a sense of civic responsibility and engagement throughout their formative years. Many students feel that they learn about their role and place in the community through their experiences.

“Volunteering makes you think more about others rather than yourself. It also helps you meet new people and gain connections for later on in life,” junior Madeline Watson said. “Through volunteering I have learned that it’s necessary for people to volunteer any chance they can because it truly does make a difference.” 

The MCPS SSL requirement pushes students to step over the boundaries of their comfort zones and lend a hand in their community. Opponents may view the requirement as too high, but the work involved benefits the community as a whole. 

“The MCPS policy is a good requirement so we don’t become selfish and value all that we have in life. A lot of people take it for granted,” Watson said.