SBHS seniors split on Society changes

Seniors have mixed feelings on volunteer program changes.

By: Rebecca Tokarz
   South Brunswick High School seniors are mixed on how they feel about the administration’s plans to change the Senior Society volunteer program.
   The changes to the four-week program include increasing the number of hours a day a student must volunteer from four hours to five hours and to draft a two-page reflection paper based on their experience. That’s in addition to students maintaining a C or above GPA in core classes and for the first three marking periods of the year, a requirement the administration is considering changing.
   Senior Society allows high school seniors to forgo final exams by volunteering five hours a day for four weeks at locations such as the library, Senior Center, the schools or any other nonprofit group instead of attending classes. The Senior Society committee must approve placements. Students are required to turn in an attendance log, signed by their supervisor.
   Seniors must file an application with school officials; show successful completion of their Freshmen Project; good disciplinary and attendance records; and payment of past due fines.
   Some students said they supported the idea of having students work a bit harder considering they will not be in the classroom for the final month of school. Others said program changes were not necessary.
   "I support the reflection paper. It should have some sort of a lasting effect. It doesn’t necessarily need to change you, but you should learn new things," said senior Neha Thatte.
   As part of the changes, a committee of faculty and administrators also is considering changing the minimum grade requirements to a B for the first three marking periods and a B or better in core classes, beginning for students graduating in 2005.
   This year’s graduating class will be held up to a combination of old and new standards, with the exception of the change in GPA requirement, school officials said last week.
   Last year approximately 400 seniors participated in the program. This year’s graduating class has 541 students.
   School officials have said the revisions to Senior Society will strengthen the program.
   Senior Pinar Comezoglu said she wasn’t bothered by the new requirements and in some ways, welcomed the changes.
   "I guess it’s OK, it’s only an hour," she said of the new five-hour daily volunteer standard. "There are no finals and I don’t have to do homework. Even if you volunteer, I would prefer that over school work."
   Pinar said she planned to apply for the program and didn’t view the changes as a deterrent and thought she might get something out of her time volunteering, although she’s not certain where that will be.
   "If it’s something I’m interested in already, I think it’ll enhance what I’m already interested in," Pinar said.
   Classmate Amy Tsui disagreed with the administration’s plan to increase the required work hours, but said it wouldn’t stop her from applying from the program.
   "I don’t see the need to add hours. They make it seem more important than it needs to be. I don’t think its necessary," said Amy.
   Amy said the required two-page paper would not be a difficult thing to produce.
   "I personally don’t want to write one, but two pages isn’t too bad," she said.
   Amy said she still planned to apply for Senior Society and if accepted, plans to work at an animal shelter in town. Amy is considering attending veterinarian school.
   "It’s a good chance to get experience," she said.
   Although they would not be affected by the possible changes in GPA requirements, the seniors were mixed on how the changes would impact students.
   "I think a C or above is fine. It’s sort of unfair that before people could get by with a C," said Pinar. "I guess the idea is to stop senioritis."
   Neha said she disagreed with the proposed GPA changes because some students who should be accepted to the program will be denied because of one difficult class.
   "A letter grade has different meanings," she said. "It could be a dedicated student — someone who just didn’t take the right classes."
   However, the changes could remind students of the importance of grades during their senior year, she said.
   "Maybe the increases are to get people to be more conscience of their grades," Neha said.
   Amy said any increases in required GPA would not be difficult for South Brunswick students to achieve, but there will always be the select few who will express displeasure with the change if approved.
   "I don’t think it would be much of a problem for people, but I’m sure some people would have a problem with it," Amy said.