Effort required to improve mind, body, soul

Community service: a necessary evil for embellishing college applications and resumes, or even for impressing your peers and parents. Of course, community service isn’t all bad. In the International Baccalaureate (IB) program students are required to participate in Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS). It sounds like a lot to deal with, and sometimes it truly is. Keeping up with weekly logs, reflections, and evidence can be tedious on top of all of my other assignments, but CAS has helped me stay committed to a task and taught me how to record events for me to reflect on later. It has also highlighted how both the person receiving and the person giving benefit from the act.

As a junior last year, I was involved in 12 CAS experiences, all ranging from creative to active to serving. One of my favorite experiences to keep up with was volunteering at the Aggieland Humane Society, where I would walk dogs, give the occasional bath to a poopy puppy, do lots of laundry, or do anything else that needed to be done around the shelter. Thinking back, the likelyhood of me actually volunteering at the shelter if I wasn’t required to do some type of community service through CAS is very low. If it weren’t for CAS, I wouldn’t be able to hang out with all the wonderful dogs and cats, or learn important things about myself (specifically the amount of self-control it takes not to walk away with a new dog after every visit).

While the individual experiences of each one are all important and have taught me things about myself, working with others, considering the ethics of my actions, and thinking about how my actions could affect all those around me, my CAS project stands out the most. When my classmate and I decided to set up a Sweetheart Dance around Valentine’s Day for local special needs teens for our CAS project, we both knew it was going to be a lot of work. Finding a venue, food, a DJ, and people to help out took an immense amount of planning, coordination with the Downs Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley, and many back-and-forth phone calls. In the end, everything worked out better than I expected. I made valuable connections with great people while doing great things for the town and I learned things about myself that I might never have learned if I wasn’t working on this event, like my own capabilities as someone being responsible for putting together a real event for people to actually come to.

Though it’s a handful, CAS has helped me grow as a person and show me how much I can learn by volunteering and working with others in my community to make it a better place. If it wasn’t required for a grade in IB, I don’t think I would have ever remained committed to the various volunteer outlets I am involved with, especially on a weekly basis. I’m thankful for the many opportunities I’ve been indirectly granted through CAS and all of the great experiences I’ve gained through volunteering and other activities. If you happen to be or know an underclassman who is ambivalent about the CAS aspect of IB, trust me when I say that it’s totally worth it. Even if you don’t want to participate in IB, I encourage you to get involved. Volunteering shouldn’t just be a necessary evil to get into college; it is something that makes us and the world better.