Published April 5, 2023
BY RILEY PALSHAW
With plans of pursuing a career in the field of public service, Carmel High School junior Marcus Michie has spent the past two years giving back to the community, whether by volunteering for the City of Monterey and the House of Representatives or through his role as president of the CHS California Scholarship Federation Club. And now, with 181 earned community service hours in the past year, he’s the perfect candidate for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
Founded in 2003 by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, the award honors individuals nationwide whose service has positively impacted communities, making CHS students with lots of community service eligible for recognition in the teen age group if they’re under 16 and the young adult age group if they’re over 16.
“It’s validation of community service,” says CHS account clerk Diana Vita, who tallies community service hours for all CHS students. “You’re doing the work, which validates you, you get a really nice certificate that you can hold on to forever, and it’s positive reinforcement for continuing a life of service.”
In the teen bracket, students are awarded a bronze medal for completing 50-74 hours, a silver medal for completing 75-99 hours and a gold medal for completing 100 hours or more. In the young adult age group, recognition begins with a bronze medal for 100-174 hours, followed by a silver medal for 175-249 hours and a gold medal for 250 or more hours. The student needs to have completed this number of hours within the past 12 months to qualify.
So what exactly are teenagers doing to get so many hours of community service?
For sophomore Azucena Salinas Martinez, who received the gold teen award last year, the 163 hours she collected came mostly from volunteering with the Cachagua Community Summer Camp and YMCA summer day camp, both fitting activities given her love for kids. As a Cachagua resident herself, Salinas Martinez enjoys the sense of belonging to her community that volunteering provides, making it easy for her to put a pause on her life and help out other people.
The same goes for senior Elias Osorio, who, after being a participant of the Monterey Junior Lifeguards Camp for five years, decided to volunteer as an assistant himself. Although the 238 hours he got from volunteering resulted in a young adult silver award, Osorio’s love for the program was what made him excited to work as an assistant.
Senior Sierra Wouden-Crosno, whose membership in the National Charity League has put her in connection with local philanthropies, volunteers her summers at the Community Partnership for Youth, a program that helps underprivileged kids and at-risk youth for gang and drug violence.
Among almost all CHS recipients and applicants for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, there seems to be a general consensus that these students aren’t volunteering for the hours, but rather because it brings them joy.
“I do community service because I genuinely enjoy it,” says sophomore Ava Martin, a volunteer at her Jewish temple and for the CHS theater tech club. “I do it less to get the hours and more because I enjoy the activities. If someone would want to get a lot of hours, putting themselves in a setting that they enjoy and keep coming back to is definitely helpful.”
Whether students are serving at banquets, cleaning up the beach or setting up the Big Sur Marathon, the exposure to new experiences that volunteering can provide has its value.
“Ever since freshman year, I’ve kind of sprung at the chance to do community service because just about every event I’ve volunteered at has granted me opportunities for new experiences and new friends,” says junior Alyssa Galicia. “As a volunteer at the Monterey Jazz Festival last fall, for example, I listened to a genre of music that I wouldn’t have normally been exposed to, met a fantastic group of musicians from another high school’s band and was actually inspired to join a jazz choir.”
If CHS students already have the number of hours required to receive recognition or are close to it, Vita urges them to fill out an application by April 7.