Service Learning: Students required to volunteer in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

Many+students+have+looked+to+the+Bettendorf+Family+Museum+as+a+place+to+do+their+service+learning+hours.+However%2C+the+museum+is+one+of+the+many+places+that+is+not+accepting+volunteers+with+COVID-19.+Many+students+have+been+left+struggling+to+find+a+place+to+complete+their+hours%2C+and+therefore+asking+the+requirement+to+be+waived.

Carissa Hurt

Many students have looked to the Bettendorf Family Museum as a place to do their service learning hours. However, the museum is one of the many places that is not accepting volunteers with COVID-19. Many students have been left struggling to find a place to complete their hours, and therefore asking the requirement to be waived.

Addi Steele, Photo Manager

Service learning requirements are not an unfamiliar concept to Pleasant Valley’s students. While they are a controversial subject, with some students dreading them while others understanding their benefit, there is no doubt the 2020-2021 school year brought drastic change to them.

Originally the requirement consisted of 30 hours from freshmen and sophomore year, and then 40 hours for junior and senior year. However, the requirements have been slightly adjusted due to COVID-19, with sophomores only needing to complete 20 hours while seniors only need to complete 30 hours. The requirement remained the same for freshmen and juniors. 

Over the summer of 2020, senior Emma Nelson created a petition on Change.org to waive the service hour requirement. “Not only are the opportunities limited, but students also have concerns with their health and safety being risked by having to attend volunteer opportunities at this time,” Nelson wrote in the description of the petition. PV students and parents joined together in agreement with Nelson and signed the petition. The petition has received a total of 424 signatures as of Oct. 9. 

Nelson stands by her decision to start the petition. “I created the petition because I thought it was ridiculous how we were all being forced to do 40 hours of service learning when COVID-19 took over 6 months away from us because everything was shut down,” Nelson explained.

PV Service Learning coordinator Emily Jepsen understood where students were coming from with the safety aspect of volunteering during this time. “I can see where some people would be struggling with that they have to go out and volunteer, however it is a two year requirement so there [are] more times to do it and right now non-profits have been social distancing and [have] other things in place,” said Jepsen. 

Jepsen realizes why students would be frustrated from the lack of more changes.  “We’re back to doing sports and working and going to school, so I understand where there could be a little bit of a frustration with it, but overall there’s nothing I can do about it,” she explained. “That’s all at administration level.”

Nelson attempted to raise her concerns to higher grounds. “I tried taking it to administration and they didn’t really want to hear what I had to say,” she asserted. “I tried explaining that I had a petition and for what reasons, but they didn’t say much.”

With the lack of change to the service learning requirements, there are some virtual opportunities and places with safety measures in place for students who worry for their safety with COVID-19. For those students, Jepsen hoped there could be a conversation with her in order to find a solution.

For the future of the petition, Nelson plans to use it to the student body’s advantage if students are still experiencing issues without reform. “I plan to go to the school board about the petition and why I made it for the other students who are struggling,” Nelson explained.

Despite the pandemic, non-profit organizations still need aid and support. “The community still needs help. Maybe more so than before, and still need[s] that support,” Jepsen expressed. “The need never went away due to COVID, if anything it was heightened.”