Community service is performed by someone or a group of people for the benefit of the public or its institutions. Performing community service is not the same as volunteering, since it is not always done voluntarily. It may be done for a variety of reasons:
governments may require it as a part of citizenship requirements, typically in lieu of military service;
courts may demand it in lieu of, or in addition to, other criminal justice sanctions – when performed for this reason it can also be known as community payback;
schools may mandate it to meet the requirements of a class, such as in the case of service-learning or to meet the requirements of graduation.
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Some schools also offer unique “community service” courses, awarding credit to students who complete a certain number of community service hours. Some academic honor societies, along with some fraternities and sororities in North America, require community service to join and others require each member to continue doing community service.
Many student organizations exist for the purpose of community service, the largest of which is Alpha Phi Omega. Community service projects are also done by sororities, and fraternities.
Beginning in the 1980s, colleges began to use service-learning as a pedagogy. A partnership of college presidents began in 1985 with the initiative of boosting community service in their colleges. This alliance, called Campus Compact, led the way for many other schools to adopt service-learning courses and activities.
Service-learning courses vary widely in time span, quality, and in the balance of “service” and “learning” stressed in the course. A typical service-learning course, however, will have these three factors in common:
A “service” component where the student spends time serving in the community meeting actual needs.
A “learning” component where students seek out or are taught information that they will integrate into their service. Learning is often both interpersonal and academic.
A “reflection” component that ties the service and learning together. Reflection is sometimes symbolized by the hyphen in the term “service-learning” to indicate that it has a central role in learning by serving. Reflection is simply a scheduled consideration of one’s own experiences and thoughts. This can take many forms, including journals, blogs, and discussions.
Service-learning courses present learning material in context, meaning that students often learn effectively and tend to apply what was learned. As the book Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning? notes, “Students engaged in service-learning are engaged in authentic situations; they get to know real people whose lives are affected by these issues… As a result they have lots of questions — real questions that they want to have answered." Thus, students are interested and motivated to learn material in order to resolve their questions.
Community service-learning tends to connect or re-connect students with serving in their community after their course is completed. It creates a bridge for the lack of community service found among college-age people in the United States.
Court ordered service
People convicted of crimes are required to perform community services or to work for agencies in the sentencing jurisdiction either entirely or partly in lieu of other judicial remedies and sanctions, such as incarceration or fines. For instance, a fine may be reduced in exchange for a prescribed number of hours of community service. The court may allow the convict to choose their community service, which then must be documented by "credible agencies", such as non-profit...