By: Caroline Triplett
It’s the summer before senior year and you’ve barely managed to pass junior year. The hopes of relaxing and partying over the summer start to fade as you realize you have no service hours logged. Why is this so bad? Well, many scholarship programs require a certain number of community service hours. Most students have no clue that they need service hours, or where to get them, or how many they need, or what they are for. It’s not too late to get your required amount in because there are organizations and programs all over that are happy to provide students with service hour opportunities.
Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program is a prestigious, lottery-funded reward to high school graduates for academic achievements. This covers many college expenses for the majority of Florida universities. Guidance counselors all over the state of Florida will encourage students to apply for this scholarship, so it’s in your best interest that you pay attention to them. There are two levels for the Bright Futures Scholarship, the Florida Academic Scholars Award (FAS) and the Florida Medallion Scholars Award (FMS). To receive the FAS award you need 100 logged community service hours and for the FMS award you need 75 logged community service hours. To learn more about the hour requirements for each award in the Bright Futures scholarship, visit their website at https://www.floridastudentfinancialaidsg.org/PDF/BFHandbookChapter1.pdf. Recently there have been a few changes to the requirements of how to obtain and log your service hours. We asked Ms. Mollo, a guidance counselor at Nease, about the new changes to the Bright Futures Scholarship requirements and how these will affect students’ applications, “For hours to count, you still need a letter from the organization for which you did the service. It needs to be on their letterhead, signed and with contact information. They simply need to specify your name, hours and activity completed, and on what date. The only change is to include WITH that letter, the reflection log previously mentioned.”
Going into high school blind about how many service hours are needed for scholarship applications happens more often than one would expect. Vandana Guru is a freshman at Nease and was asked “What do you know about service hours already.” Vandana responded with, “you volunteer to get them…and you can’t be paid.” Many underclassmen, freshmen in particular, do not know enough about service hours until it is too late. No one is at fault here, it is just a habit that too many schools ignore. Educating underclassmen about service hour requirements is overlooked most of the time, so it is crucial that students be attentive when they are given information.
Once students are aware of how many hours they need, the hard part is not procrastinating and taking action to acquire the hours. Emsley Thornton is a senior here at Nease and we asked her how she managed service hours with other responsibilities, “I got the majority of my service hours through volunteering at my church. So every Wednesday and Sunday I would get service hours. I planned the rest of my responsibilities around those two days because of the commitment I made.” Delegating time is hard, but necessary when your future is on the line.
What students don’t realize is that there are plenty of organizations willing to give out volunteer hours. Nease’s website has an extensive list of locations and organizations that students can utilize when looking for service hours. Under the Guidance Pages tab of the Nease homepage, the community service link will take you to a page with information about hour requirements for certain scholarships and a detailed description of each example provided. There are also website links for other volunteer ideas. We contacted Habitat for Humanity’s Jacksonville location and asked them what students should expect when volunteering. They responded and said, “Our two main volunteer opportunities are working with our construction team to build a home or with our ReStores.” HabiJax’s Community Engagement Manager would like to emphasize the fact that neither of these projects require experience or materials.
It’s not difficult to get these service hours in. Allotting time and putting in work will get any student the required amount. Organizations all over the North Florida region will be elated to help if you are willing to reach out and dedicate time.