DCPS Eliminates 501(c)(3) Requirement For Service Hours
D.C.’s dramatic reduction of its 30-year-old community service requirement for the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025 earlier this year — city officials said the COVID-19 pandemic limited opportunities for students to earn hours — had immediate ramifications for many current high school students.
But alongside that move came another, permanent change: eliminating the requirement that students earn their hours with a 501(c)(3) organization.
501(c)(3)status — many non profits fall under the designation — is restricted to organizations with a mission of promoting a social cause or offering a public benefit. However, under DCPS’s new changes, students can complete hours at for-profit businesses, such as Costco or Safeway.
Officials have said the new policy offers more flexibility in completing hours; however, there is some controversy, with many students questioning whether working for a company is actually community service. A DCPS spokesperson declined to comment.
Some students who have already completed their required hours at nonprofits are unhappy with this decision. “Community service is our civic duty as citizens on this earth and members of the D.C. community,” said Sophie Schell (‘25), who has already completed over 400 service hours. “The community service required should be required to be performed in conjunction with a nonprofit because working at a grocery store isn’t community service, it is a job. The purpose of community service is to give back to your community, not just to get a certain amount of hours.”
On the other hand, Augusta Kankel (‘25) said, “You should get your hours for [for-profits]…You are doing a service to the community, and someone has to do the work.” She said she thought working for a business is worth the hours because doing any necessary work is good for the community.
Moreover, Wongel Lemien (‘24) said that as a freshman just starting to earn community service hours, the wide array of new options is “helpful” and makes the requirement seem less daunting — especially at Walls, which already has extra requirements necessary to complete in order to graduate, like senior project and internships.
Eleanor Brosowsky (‘26) said that because the move doesn’t take away any student’s options, it “doesn’t really mean much” for most people. “This change really depends on your preferences and the opportunities you have,” she said.