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While community service is a requirement at Townsend Harris High School, many students work even harder to gain acceptance into honor societies such as ARISTA and ARCHON, which require 50 hours and 80 hours of service, respectively. These societies acknowledge students who demonstrate strong academic standing, good citizenship by volunteering in their community, and active participation in extracurricular activities. However, aside from the 30-second walk across the stage at the induction ceremony to shake the hands of faculty members and receive a certificate or pin of recognition, what purpose do these honor societies have for the students? Do they really encourage students to live up to the Ephebic Oath and be more involved in serving their community?
Prior to the induction ceremonies, there are general meetings for members of ARISTA and ARCHON to elect members to their executive boards. However, these executive boards do nothing but present the honor society members during the induction ceremonies. Students are eligible to run for positions such as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer based on how many years they’ve been in the honor society. For example, both the president and vice president of ARISTA must be second-year members junior year. The junior president and junior vice president of ARCHON are elected for two terms and must also be second-year members junior year. They give a very brief speech on why they are running for the position, and then the members vote.
These positions seem like legitimate leadership opportunities, but in reality, they are merely titles that don’t encourage any type of action for the community. ARCHON executive board members are supposedly expected to come early in the morning or stay after school to run ARCHON meetings and organize ARCHON-sponsored community service activities, but where are the meetings? Where are the fundraisers and community service activities being led by ARCHON board members? There is very little activity in the leadership board, and it seems like these positions are nothing but additional labels for students to put on themselves to appeal to colleges.
Because members of ARISTA and ARCHON don’t engage in service opportunities together or participate in meetings to foster a passion for serving their community, many students end up only fulfilling the requirements of community service hours so they can put them on their resumes. More often than not, community service stops being about the community and acts more like a burden. You find places where you can fulfill your hours, get the forms signed, and then forget about the process until it’s time to do it all over again. Students are no longer interested in what they can learn from the experience and instead see service as just another task they rush to complete.
Therefore, it is necessary to have ARISTA or ARCHON meetings during which members can discuss the importance and impact of community service, brainstorm ideas to get more involved in the community, and organize fundraisers or other service opportunities for society members to partake in. Through these meetings, executive board members would finally have responsibilities that require them to take more direct action. This would place emphasis on community service throughout the course of a full school year and would help students realize that good citizenship should be a lifestyle, not just a one-time good deed.
People may argue that the main purpose of honor societies is to reward and acknowledge the community service that students have accomplished. However, the Ephebic Oath encourages students to not leave their city “any less but rather greater” than they found it. Service honor societies like ARISTA and ARCHON should work to help students realize firsthand the impact they can have if they choose to devote time and effort to service activities.