About 80 of Senn High School’s 1,679 students have completed a total of 2,600 hours of service learning since 1997, when the school started keeping track. Five students recently shared their experiences and opinions with Associate Editor Debra Williams.

Thi Kim, sophomore

Swedish American Museum

I volunteered because I knew it was required. I chose the Swedish Museum on Clark Street because one day on my way home, I thought it looked like an interesting place. I help fix things, clean up and help get the museum prepared for visitors.

The Swedish Museum shows how people immigrated from Sweden to Chicago. My teacher is talking about immigration from Europe, so service learning is helping me learn more about immigration.

After I finish my hours, I would probably like to continue service learning at a different place because it will look good on my applications and give me a better chance at a high-paying job and a good college.

I think service learning should be mandated because it teaches you how to lend a hand and how to interact with other people. Also, it’s only a few hours after school, like two days a week. I’ve spent more time watching TV.

Cam Dang, sophomore

Vietnamese Association of Illinois

I am working with Vietnamese people who need help when they first come to the United States and they can’t speak English. I teach Vietnamese students how to read and speak.

I am having a lot of fun and learning a lot. I volunteered because I like to help people and learn new things and gain knowledge from other people. I also volunteered because I need the credits to graduate. But even if I wasn’t asked, I’d still volunteer.

What I’m doing is different than what we are doing in the classroom, but once we did discuss it in class and students donated money and cans of food.

I don’t think service learning should be mandated. If you make people do it, they won’t do a good job and won’t have their heart in it.

Jennifer Allen, sophomore

American Red Cross

They are teaching me how to prepare for disasters as well as training me in CPR and AIDS/HIV. Later I will share that information with my friends, family and even teachers.

I volunteered because I felt it would be a great opportunity for me to learn about medical emergencies because I want to become a surgeon.

Some of my classmates were mad when they heard we had to do this. People in my class—if they don’t get credit for something—they don’t want to do it. But I think service learning should be mandated. Helping others [is] a great way to get to know other people, and once you do it, it really makes you realize that helping others warms your heart.

Simona Craig, freshman

American Red Cross

What I do is go to schools and places were young people hang out and talk to them about AIDS and HIV. I volunteered because I thought it would be a good experience to teach kids younger than I am and at the same time, broaden my horizons on the subject of AIDS and CPR.

I have volunteered before—as a counselor’s aide after my seventh-period class.

In my P.E. class, we are discussing the most common STDs and are also learning what parts of the body certain diseases attack and spread.

This experience has made me realize that there is a safer route, like choosing abstinence, instead of getting a disease or pregnant. This has also made me want to take more classes on the subject.

Yes, service learning should be mandated, or no one would do it. If you do something you don’t like, you can choose something else. Still, you can’t make someone do this. If it’s interesting, people will do it. It has to be something you like doing.

Eduardo Cristiano, freshman

American Red Cross

My training was for two months after school, for three days a week by the American Red Cross. I got a diploma, which means I am certified to talk to people about AIDS. I volunteered because I know how important it is to me that Hispanics learn about AIDS. I volunteer now at a community center where I help answer questions about AIDS over the phone. I have also talked at churches. Once I even did a conference in my home for 12 or 13 neighborhood people, mostly teenagers, and some of my classmates have asked me about AIDS.

When Simona heard about what I was doing, she was interested in it too.

I used to volunteer at Centro Romero. I’ve been helping out since I was 11 years old.

In my environmental science class, we talk about how illnesses can spread to a lot of people. We didn’t talk specifically about HIV, but that gave me an idea of how this and many other diseases can spread all over the world, and at the same time, how we can protect ourselves and help prevent it.

I think service learning should be mandated because we need to be prepared for our future, and by doing community service, we learn and help others.

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