Joliette Re/Contributing Writer
A student’s performance in a classroom is evaluated based on their knowledge or how they participate in class or the content of their writing assignments. As a college student myself, I understand that doing well in class is a priority. However, I wonder if whether the criteria to excel in class should be tied to the hours I put into volunteering. Should volunteering at a non-for-profit organization be an essential component in the grading system in a college classroom?
In my case, volunteering at Harmony Health Center has been a positive experience for me. My first time volunteering I assisted transporting the patients to several rooms and made conversations with the patients. Because I was not a CNA -Certified Nursing Assistant, I could not do much. I am not allowed to serve food to the patients. If a patient needs to use the bathroom, I am not allowed to help them. All I could do was talk to them. Most of them though just stared back or mumbled incoherent words unrelated to the topic at hand. Those that did speak intelligently only spoke Spanish.
My second time volunteering I assisted the office with organizing several paperwork. Because of my efforts and participation, I made friends with people in the office. My third time volunteering I assisted a small of group of patients. I spoke with one patient, who remains unnamed in sake of privacy. She seems to suffer from dementia because she keeps having irrational fears of her room being taken from her. Later, I enjoyed conducting an informal manicure on two female patients.
My fourth time volunteering I was able to witness more of their daily struggles. One patient needed assistance drinking from a plastic cup, so she needed to use a straw. Nevertheless, she needed someone to hold the cup and straw for her, because her hands shook too much. Another has to be fed food and water through a feeding tube. Other patients do not have the physical ability to get up from bed, so they have to be hoisted up by some crane that holds a net which will support them.
The experience itself made me realize how fortunate I am. I have a family and friends. I have the ability to move independently, to drive, to clothe myself, and to have basic conversations. The mundane task of drinking from a water fountain, a task I do not think too much about, would be an impossible ordeal for others. The experience working at the nursing home really put into perspective what really matters in life.
To answer the question whether volunteering at a non-for-profit organization should be part of someone’s grade, I think it depends. One must consider how that volunteering can be linked to the subject area. Perhaps for undergraduate students in the medical field they may benefit from volunteering at nursing homes or other non-for-profit medical facilities. On the other hand, some may argue volunteering should not be part of a class’s grading system because measuring what students have learned is difficult. However, this opens up into a wider debate on how to define education. Is education solely consisting of formal learning or also experiences done outside the classroom? If we broaden the definition of education to include outside experience as well, then volunteering could be included as a criterion in a grading system.