The movie, Pay It Forward, was released in October of 2000. In this movie a young boy attempts to make the world a better place as part of a social studies assignment. The assignment is to think of something that can change the world and then put that into action. Trevor, the boy with the assignment, decides to pay a favor forward, in other words, if someone does something nice for you, instead of pay back, you should pay the good deed forward by giving of yourself to at least three other people. Trevor’s idea takes hold and soon he is influencing an ever-widening circle of characters that are not even known to him.
Community Service is an opportunity for your youth to Pay It Forward by first identifying an unmet need in the community and then making a plan to address that need. Youth can work alone, in a club, or with a community organization to resolve the need. Sample projects can include neighborhood clean-up, supporting community health fairs, collecting recyclables, refurbishing and repainting a homeless center, collecting blankets for the animal shelter so animals can have a warmer winter, and any number of other projects.
Although the community will definitely benefit from community service, perhaps the greatest benefit will be for your students. In the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, two key areas stand out as those who will benefit from community service:
• Self Esteem: The development of high self-esteem and self-efficacy
• Sense of Purpose: The development of a strong sense of purpose, and
• Caring: Placing a high value on helping other people
• Equality and Social Justice: Placing a high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
Helping young people to develop and hone these traits will prepare them for productive and successful life.