Amber Galaz, 18, and Hannah Russ, 17, made their pitch Monday to a Senate committee: Community service would make a good requirement to graduate from high school.
The two teens have served community dinners, handed out dictionaries to fifth graders, taught nutrition to younger kids — and testified on youth-oriented bills as part of the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council.
"It helps you get into the community," said Galaz, a senior from University Place, after testifying on the bill introduced by Rep. Steve Bergquist, D-Renton. "It helps you open up your mind on what you want to do in life." Bergquist was inspired to introduce his bill by his own community activities as a teen.
Hannah Russ acknowledged that many students might not be enthusiastic about community service, but she added: "By getting involved, you'll have a change of heart."
At least 20 Washington school districts currently require students to perform 10 to 100 hours of community service in order to graduate. Bergquist's bill would make community service mandatory for graduation starting in 2017. The bill allows individual school districts to define what "community service " is, how many hours should be logged and how those hours are tracked.
"One thing we appreciate [in the business world] is a breadth of experience," said Chris Smith, a Nordstrom's analyst who was testifying as a private citizen. "Emotional intelligence is not a squishy thing, but it contributes" to how a young person adjusts to the working world.
Emily Persky, representing the State Board of Education, and Marie Sullivan from the Washington School Director's Association said their organizations support the concept as long as individual districts retain the power to define the parameters of community service.
Nobody testified against the bill, which was passed by the House (92-6) two weeks ago.