Packer Community Service: Helpful or In Need of Improvement?
Over the course of every school year, the Packer student body can be found fulfilling their mandatory community service credit by walking in solidarity with cancer patients, running into frigid NYC water for the Special Olympics, or hosting various bake sales to raise money for charity. Packer’s service is specifically designed to encourage students to engage in communities beyond school walls and to find meaning in the work that they do. However, the required service credit has come under fire in the past two years for being confusing, poorly designed, and not in keeping with what the program promises. Are these mandatory credits helping the people that need it? If not, should the system be changed?
Many of the critiques about community service at Packer are coming from the Freshman and Sophomore grades, who now are required to follow the ACES credit system. While the idea of doing three work credits to complete the program sounds straightforward, the 9th and 10th grade outlines have gradually morphed into an arduous and deeply confusing set of rules consisting of three different “paths”:
In addition to these paths making little sense, they are not accomplishing what the SLC created them for: to encourage Packer students to engage in the outer community.
Jordana Sampson (‘21) says, “at the beginning of the year, we had a whole meeting in the Pratt about what real community service is and how to engage with the world while earning our ACES credits. But now you can just watch three movies and get a credit or babysit Packer kids for a while. Stuff that in the real world, would not be considered as ‘service.’”
Although there are undeniably many worthy options for completing the credits including working at the Children’s Law Center or partaking in the Cooke Basketball Tournament, the way the system is designed allows students to earn their credits within Packer and by putting in minimal effort.
Heelah Karim (‘22) says, “Most of the activities surround Packer or take place here. I don’t really think that’s fair because community service definitely extends beyond the realms of our school.”
Packer students have proven for years now that they are intelligent, ready to influence change, and willing to partake in service. Kids Walk, an annual march to raise money for cancer research, was founded by a Packer alumna and has now raised over six million dollars since 2001. Five tenth grade girls go above and beyond the required service to participate in Girl Scouts, during which they watch and teach children from low income neighborhoods. Additionally, for the past two years, they were at the forefront of school walkouts, protesting injustices that have affected people on an international scale.
Packer students should not be watching movies in F405 when they have proven so frequently in the past that they are capable of enacting real change. It is now the responsibility of the SLC to refine the program so that students are not only encouraged, but actively pushed to reach outside of the Packer bubble and help those in need.