Creating service hour balance

Students find new ways to navigate service hours during COVID pandemic


Jenna Hanson’s photo

Raymond Altmann, Managing Editor

Covid-19 has affected a lot of area’s in life lately, and community service is just another one to add to the list. From senior projects to various clubs, the pandemic has forced changes.
Utica High’s senior project requires seniors to attain 40 hours of community service, submit evaluation forms from supervisors, and present a project on it at the end of the year. These projects are normally part of each English class, and credit in the course is required for graduation, making the service hours required, as well.
“We decided to suspend it this year because of COVID,” teacher Linda Kammann said. “The website is still up and running, but we are not requiring anything.”
If seniors want to, they can still participate in this project and do community service, although it is not required. Information can be found at
“In the end, I think it is better that we do not have to do service hours,” senior Cassidy Eskew said. “It will save some students from stressing out, and it will keep everyone involved safe from possibly getting the virus. It’s also better for us students, because in the past students have been told about the project at the end of their junior year, and some would have their hours completed before their senior year begins. We were not told about the project at the end of last year, so students may not have been able to or have the time to complete service hours without the summer months.”
Overwhelmed by remote learning, many seniors appreciate the change.
“I am pretty happy to hear that service hours and the senior project weren’t required this year, because it was always a stress to have to get so many hours for each club I was in,” senior Kristina Throne said. “It was fairly easy to get the hours sophomore year, but after struggling to get the required hours junior year, along with all my other schooling, I was pretty worried for senior year.”
Another group that has seen a change in service hour requirements due to COVID concerns is Student Council. Student Council members typically help aid the community, as well as within the school.
“Student Council service hours this year are being reduced,” teacher Yvonne Swanson, co-adviser of the group, said. “We are mainly focusing on attendance at meetings, and participation in the activities we have put on.”
In the past, students were required to meet after school once a week to plan different events, and log hours spent helping out with various events. These events could be anything from helping decorate for homecoming, to passing out candy canes as students enter the school at the start of their day.
“I do remember the service hours for Student Council being a major part of the group,” senior Dylan Pillivant, Student Council member, said. “But as we all know, this year is a little different in the way we have to do things. I understand why we reduced the number of service hours requited, and I’m grateful that Student Council has recognized our newfound stress.”
Covid-19 has not stopped Student Council from meeting, however, as they still meet over Teams. They are also planning activities, too. This October, for example, the group hosted an online spirit week.
“It makes it a little more difficult to keep enthusiasm for spirit days, and not as many people are participating in it as well,” senior Caitlyn Wagner, Student Council president, said. “Online drains us, so trying to ask students to do even more is kind of tough.”
Because traditional activities have been impossible this year, Student Council has been thinking of new ways to serve the school.
“Our executive board attended a virtual leadership conference in November,” Swanson said, “to gather ideas on how to build and improve the school community environment by implementing virtual activities during remove learning.”
Brainstorming ideas has been a key component for the group.
“It affects us positively,” Wagner said. “It allows all the students to develop more creative thinking skills, because we have to think outside the box for cool events.”
Wagner still acknowledged downfalls.
“It negatively affects us because we can’t meet in person, or bond, like we usually do.”
Student Council isn’t the only group being affected by the pandemic, National Honor Society (NHS) has also been working around the new online school, and as well as within the Covid-19 guidelines.
NHS annually has a ceremony where they initiate new members into their group. Because this wasn’t possible, NHS is unsure of how the initiation will take place.
“We are working on having an initiation ceremony this year,” Kammann, NHS adviser, said. “it will be a virtual initiation, and it will come out at the end of January.”
Changes for the group are not limited to the initiation.
“The service hours have been suspended this year because of Covid-19,” Kammann said, “although all tutoring hours are virtual.”
Members interested in tutoring sign up at
Some student groups haven’t even found out what their plan is yet, such as Key Club.
“We will be starting up sometime in January,” Key Club adviser Joy Grieco said.
Eager for the return to normalcy, many students are not celebrating the removal of service hours.
“I am not completely excited service hours requirements have been removed because of the circumstances that caused it,” Thorne said. “I miss getting together to help out the community. It was a big relief, but I hate how I am not able to help anywhere this year.”
Students agree that they’re looking forward to the return of community service.
“I have mixed feeling about the fact that senior service hours are not required this year,” Eskew said. “On one hand, I am happy, because I have struggled in the past to get volunteer hours. On the other hand, I am sad. I with I had the opportunity to volunteer to help out.”
Pillivant agrees.
“I hope we can continue helping the community, which is what Student Council does best,” he said. “I have high hopes that one day soon we can all reconnect as a community, safely in person.”