The Price of Service
By dedicating themselves to the service of others, buildOn students—like Steve and Faby from Bridgeport and Carla from Detroit—are revitalizing their neighborhoods and changing their communities for the better. But a recent report from Independent Sector showcases that our students’ service does more than save their cities figuratively. By volunteering, buildOn students are also saving their communities fiscally.
And with more than 180,000 collective hours of service during the 2015/2016 school year, it turns out that the value of buildOn students’ service is no small change.
The report from Independent Sector—a national membership organization bringing together nonprofits, foundations and corporations engaged in charitable work—which used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, estimated that the value of volunteer time in 2015 was equal to $23.56 per hour. And because buildOn students served a total of 188,940 hours during the 2015/2016 school year, that means that their collective volunteer time saved their cities a whopping $4,451,426.40.
See how we calculated the amount buildOn students collectively saved their cities by looking at the graphic below.
Independent Sector based their hourly estimate on an analysis of national labor data. But by taking a closer look at the numbers and accounting for the state-by-state variations in the hourly value of volunteer time, a more accurate estimate of the savings buildOn student are affording their cities may be closer to, if not more than, 5 million dollars. Five out of the six states in which buildOn runs Service Learning Programs—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York—all have hourly estimates above $23.56.
With more than 180,000 collective hours of service during the 2015/2016 school year, it turns out that the value of buildOn students’ service is no small change.
The $5,000,000 in savings doesn’t take into account another important factor that saves cities—and taxpayers—more money: buildOn has been proven to keep students in school. We’ve written in the past about how buildOn students miss 2.1 times less school than their peers and, on average, are in attendance 15 more days per school year than students not involved with buildOn. Our students also have a high school graduation rate of 97 percent, despite the fact that many schools we serve graduate barely half their students. We’ve also written about how students who drop out of high school are more likely to be arrested, commit crimes, and find themselves unemployed. According to a study from Northeastern University, each high school dropout will end up costing taxpayers an average of $292,000 throughout the course of their lifetime when compared to peers who stay in school. Helping kids finish school doesn’t just impact the students who graduate, it benefits all of society.
The long story short? Five million dollars saved may be a conservative estimate, but in reality there’s no way to truly quantify the value of service for the youth who volunteer or the lives they impact.
Whatever the grand savings total may be, by partnering with nonprofits and organizations that are often understaffed in volunteers, buildOn students are providing essential community services at the organizations that need them the most—such as food pantries, homeless shelters, senior complexes and youth centers. And many cities, especially large, cash-strapped municipalities such as Chicago and Detroit, simply don’t have the money to to pay for the work that volunteers contribute.
Natalie Cahue, a sophomore buildOn student at Curie Metro High School in Chicago, has been volunteering at Chicago Youth Programs since her freshman year.
In Chicago, buildOn students regularly volunteer on Saturdays to lead arts and crafts activities that they have created for the children at Chicago Youth Programs (CYP), a nonprofit providing over 40 comprehensive programs to underserved youth in Chicago. Audtrie Mobley, the Director of CYP’s Washington Park Programs, agrees that the time students spend serving is valuable to her organization.
“buildOn makes my job a lot easier,” Ms. Mobley says. “I value the buildOn students because they make our Saturdays more structured. buildOn comes in with art activities that our children love to do. That’s something our kids don’t always get to do when buildOn isn’t here. Our children really look forward to seeing the buildOn students and spending time with them.”
Five million dollars saved may be a conservative estimate, but in reality there’s no way to truly quantify the value of service for the youth who volunteer or the lives they impact
Zenon Montoya, a buildOn student at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago who has more than 560 service hours, also knows that his time volunteering is valuable. But to Zenon, the value of service extends well beyond money.
“Service is something that has no price. It’s priceless,” Zenon says. “It’s really important because there are people out there who need help. And thanks to buildOn we can go out there and help those people. We’re able to show them that not only are there people who care, but that the youth cares, too, and that we’re out here trying to change the world.”