School administrators are scrambling to provide seniors with an outlet for 15 hours of service-learning volunteer work necessary for graduation as the Dec. 15 deadline approaches for it. As a result, they have turned to promote Treedom, an app whose founder, Michael Kadisha, could very possibly be making the lives of its users worse.
Treedom is an app that proudly proclaims it, “lets you make an impact while winning scholarships,” but this could be further from the truth. Ignoring the students self-reporting their service work, there is the work itself which tends to be less so service and more so self-gratification, such as exercising and signing a petition.
Herein lies the issue as students have been reportedly falsifying the amount of time it takes them to finish each respective activity leading to unearned hours. This not only undermines the hours earned by students but also the mantra of the app as there is no “impact” being made, showing that the school takes little into account when processing the volunteer hours of students.
One can argue, however, that service-learning can begin freshman year which indicates that the students are at fault and that Kadisha is simply trying to alleviate the issues, especially with quarantine making it exponentially harder to acquire hours.
Despite this, students being unmotivated to perform service hours before they were steered into it by the school, and even then falsified them, shows the extent to which service-learning has grown outdated. Rather than incentivizing students to partake in community activities and work together in their communities, it serves as yet another menial task required before graduation.
Additionally, Kadisha, an outspoken philanthropist, stated in the podcast “Thrive LOUD with Lou Diamond” that students, “can make connections, they can think for themselves, they have the ability to voice their own opinions and they have opinions as a consequence.” He then continued to engage in discourse about the systemic racism that many students face and how Treedom helps undertake these issues.
The more troubling aspect of Kadisha’s history, and why his statement is so condescending, is due to his relation with Los Angeles tenants through his other company K3 Holdings LLC. A company that is an investment manager that primarily focuses on real estate. LAist noted that “K3 is operated by 20-something brothers Nathan and Michael Kadisha, who paid a total of $4.3 million in move-out incentives to tenants of those buildings between October 2019 and January 2021…[and] can make twice as much on any given unit if they force the current residents out.” In other words, the Kadisha brothers gentrify through forced evictions only to later “aid” the very students affected by his company’s actions through a half-baked app that addresses the outdated service-learning program.
This being said, rather than stroking the ego of a millionaire and obscuring his morally dubious acts, schools should start pushing for quality service-learning over quantity. Not that 15 hours of service is particularly hard to acquire, but rather that the hours should be acquired honorably. By transitioning from a rigid quota to that of individualized interests, there can be a more focused effort in meeting the interests of students to achieve a more honorable service learning.