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For decades the mantra of parents and teachers has been: “Make good grades so you can get into a good college.”

Now admission counselors are saying that an excellent transcript might not be enough for scholarship seekers. Leadership and service are what tip the scales.

So many high schools have — or are considering having — a community service requirement to be fulfilled before handing out those cherished diplomas to teens in square hats.

Gee. Just what we parents of teens need — one more thing to check on.

“Honey, have your finished your book for English Lit?”

(“Hold on, I’m tweeting. Yes, I read it.”)

“Have you written your paper for AP US history?”

(“Hold on, somebody just friended me on Facebook. Yes, wrote about the ancient era of Watergate.”)

“Have you fed the homeless?”

As a recovering campus minister who led students to engage in all kinds of service — from spending spring breaks in a storefront ministry to children on New York’s Lower East Side to pouring concrete slabs for a Habitat building blitz in Charlotte — my appreciation for volunteer service is strong.

Locally, and despite demanding studies and other commitments, these students stayed engaged throughout the year by working in all kinds of community service — but never for academic credit or pay.

“Required service” sounds like an oxymoron to me. Service that is required is not selfless. It carries the same passion that a crew of inmates picking up litter has for the environment.

It is in fact self-serving — with a primary payoff that benefits the one doing the service and recording the mandated hours.

So am I opposed to such a requirement — as the one now being introduced at my daughters’ school?

No. I just think we need to be honest about the motive. Let’s not fool ourselves by calling required community service anything other than self-service.

My hope is that forced community service will be an introduction into a lifestyle that involves more than simply helping others in order to help oneself. Perhaps the fruit of such self-service can truly be a discovery of the joy that comes from serving others without regard for what one gets in return.

Genuine, altruistic service — done out of love and concern for others — can bring rewards that no ledger can record and no university gatekeeper can measure.

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