When I was 13 years old, my mom told me that we would serve at a local food kitchen on Thanksgiving Day rather than our normal big Thanksgiving meal. I am embarrassed to say that I threw a fit. I stomped around with attitude and actually pitied myself that I was giving up SO much. Little did I know-it was a Thanksgiving that I would never forget. I ended up meeting people in true want, those who, on that Thanksgiving, were without the means to build a meal for their family. I ended up meeting some of the most grateful and joyful people that day-people who had little, and didn't let it dampen their joy. It's a lesson I learned and have never forgotten.

By nature, we are selfish creatures. We don't automatically like to put others before ourselves-we all go for the best slice of pizza or the piece of cake with the perfect amount of frosting. That is why community service is such a vital part of the educational journey. It creates a planned, structured way to learn lessons that we simply won't teach ourselves. It has a growing list of benefits:

College Admissions love to see it: One of the things that colleges look for is a well-rounded and responsible student. Applications should be creating a story that shows the student's passions. It's one thing to say you love dogs, but it's another to have a documented history volunteering at an animal shelter.

Discover new passions: Many students think they want to get into a specific job field until they actually try it. Community service with the field in which they're interested, can help narrow down or discover new pathways they had not previously considered.

Apply academic knowledge: Students who learn about recycling in the classroom may remember it for the test, but if they take part in the campus-wide recycling program, then they are invested in it. They will take ownership of the program in a way that they never would had they not helped carry it out.

Helps give a sense of social responsibility: If someone has ever volunteered to pick up trash, they are far less likely to throw their own wrappers out of the car window. Volunteering helps create a sense of social connectedness that you can't build without sharing in some of the work to keep society going.

It makes you healthier: According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression than those who don't!

TCCS students have mandated community service hours that they need to fulfill for junior high and high school. Additionally, students are encouraged to serve their school on optional Saturday Work Days, and some classes even organize field trips for community service during the school day! Community service has so many benefits, so the question isn't really IF you should serve, it's when and where.