Going Beyond the Requirements

Finding inspiration for volunteering and personal projects.


Natalie Sadler

Dinh using a rowing machine.

Natalie Sadler, Copy Editor

The last-minute googling of local non-profits for service opportunities and the analysis of one’s interests for the personal project are common worries among Suncoast students. However, many students have already taken action with various non-profits and started to explore their interests with the personal project.

Sophomores are required to complete 75 hours of community service by December 2022, while upperclassmen are required to meet 150 CAS hours by graduation according to CAS supervisor, Dennis Spencer. Many students dread the completion of these hours, however, some students have found opportunities where they can do what they love while helping the community or spreading a message.

Sahit Polineni, a senior, has been focused on cleaning the ocean and educating local schools about the state of our world and how we can change it for the better with the club, Surface71. The organization hosts beach cleanups, raises awareness about plastic pollution, and has even installed 11 water refill stations into local schools. Surface71 is a popular source of community service hours for students and is even participating in a robot beach cleanup on October 29.

“I joined Surface71 about a year ago through Emily Briceno, one of the founders. It was really interesting to me because of how the whole organization was run by students. It’s important to me because of how great the impact that young people can have on the environment if more of them got involved. I enjoy being a part of Surface71 because it helps create a community of people who want to help better our earth and its oceans,” Polineni said.

In addition to completing service hour requirements, students are required to complete a personal project in their
sophomore year. Personal projects can range from learning a new sport or language to making a cookbook. However,
many students find the personal project difficult and tedious if they do not work with something they find interesting.

Claire Dinh, a junior, decided to experiment with her interests in both her personal project and volunteer hours. Many students often decide to learn a language for their personal project, but Dinh took it a step further by reading an entire book in mandarin.

“I read a learner edition of an ancient Chinese story called ‘Journey to the West.’ In middle school, I took Chinese as a class and we started reading small learner books to help with our reading comprehension. Since Mandarin isn’t offered here, I wanted to help retain what I’ve learned by reading this book,” Dinh said.

In addition, Dinh is helping others find their passions through community service. Dinh has helped teach students from all over the county to row in hopes of helping kids find a sport they love and will look forward to participating in.

Eva Kuroczycki, a sophomore, is also using the personal project as a way to explore her interests. Kuroczycki has created a 3D layout of a sustainable neighborhood complete with different styles of housing and even a sustainable grocery store with limited packaging and plastics.

“I really wanted to do something for my community and I love sustainability and architecture so it was just kind of a
combination of all the things I want to do when I’m older,” Kuroczycki said. Kuroczycki has built a community of four or five different styles of housing and even dreams of living in a sustainable tiny house in the future.

Personal project coordinator, volunteer community service teacher and AP Government and Politics teacher, Joseph Schwab advises and grades personal projects along with overlooking his students’ community service requirements.

“I feel that Community Service Hours are important because it makes you realize that many of us have it better than others. By volunteering we can give back to others and our community and to not take for granted what we have. Also, it just feels like the right thing to do to help those that may be less fortunate than us. We have time and talents that we can share,” Schwab answered when asked why students should be required to complete community service requirements.

While many students struggle to complete their service hours and personal projects, many believe that these requirements fuel personal growth and can help one discover new passions and interests.