Many in the Broward County area are concerned about adolescent activity and motivation. They wanted to interest youth in giving back to their communities. Not only do they want to pique their interest, but the desire is to promote volunteerism and recognize those who participate in community service. Thus, the School Board of Broward County founded the State of Florida’s first district-wide volunteer service program in 1989, The Student Volunteer Service Program.
A committee chaired by the School Board’s Student Activities Liaison, community leaders, school personnel, businessmen, and students establishes rules and rewards for the program. Graduates who accumulate 250 documented hours of volunteer service have their names listed in graduation programs. They complete 100 of those 250 hours during their senior year and upon graduation are awarded a Silver Honor Cord to wear at graduation ceremonies.
Each high school has forms on which the service hours are documented. Pamphlets stipulating the rules about what does and does not count as volunteer service hours are published in each of the schools so all are clear as to what is expected. The schools provide for a supplementary position called the Student Volunteer Service Program Coordinator. This person is responsible for overseeing the program, monitoring service hours, promoting the program, and trouble-shooting.
The Student Volunteer Service Program has been a huge success. The community is benefiting at the hospitals, soup kitchens, nursing homes and other facilities. The teens are seeing that they can brighten someone’s day and make a difference in someone’s life. They have also learned to be appreciative of what they have by seeing people who are less fortunate than them. The program is building character, self-confidence and self-esteem within the teens.
Since 1989, the number of Silver Cords being issued by each high school has increased annually. In June 2000, more than 15% of the graduates from each of the district’s 23 high schools earned Silver Cords. The School Board of Broward County further increased their commitment by adding a graduation requirement of 40 hours of documented community service in the year 2000.