person holding small present

Giving back to your community makes a difference.

As a Penn Foster student, you’ve learned to manage your time independently so you can balance work, life, and your self-paced studies.You’ve celebrated course milestones, stayed up late trying to master a new skill, and worried about getting the best grades possible. You’ve almost reached the end of another year and you have so much to be proud of! You’re still working toward your career goals, but while you’re finishing up classes and externships, you can start putting your knowledge and skills to work by giving back to your community.

Giving back is contagious.

man with sign that says seeking human kindness in subway

Besides the warm and fuzzy feelings that fill you up when you do something good for someone, giving back in small and large ways can inspire a wave of positive change.

Think about the times you’ve had a bad day. Everything seems to go wrong, you’re running late, and the drive-through at your favorite coffee shop is backed up. You’re tired, you’re stressed. Then you finally get to the window and the barista tells you that the person in front of you paid for your order, just because. What happens then?

Most of the time, despite the annoying little things that have started to make for a bad day, you feel surprised, happy, and just a bit better about the world. And since your order is paid for, you go ahead and pay it forward. Maybe the person behind you doesn’t keep it going, but maybe they do. In either case, you’ve done something kind because someone was kind to you.

Thoughtful acts, no matter how small, have a ripple effect. Your kindness inspires kindness in someone else and so on. It doesn’t take an overflowing bank account or all of your time to make it happen, either.

Giving back can start small.

woman holding textiles

Giving back can feel like a heavy responsibility when you also have a family to feed, work to do, and bills to pay, sometimes struggling to make your own ends meet. There’s never enough time in the day or dollars in a paycheck. But making a difference starts with a single step. It’s the small efforts of individuals like you that build a foundation for a better community. Here are a few easy, small ways you can do good in your neighborhood.

1. Random acts of kindness. This could be almost anything and take very little effort. You can do things like:

  • Help your elderly neighbor mow their lawn.
  • Pick up litter someone carelessly threw on the ground at the park.
  • Call an old friend to check in.
  • Compliment a stranger’s outfit.
  • Pay for someone’s meal, just because.
  • Write a motivational note and leave it where someone who needs a boost will find it.
  • Say something nice to your parent, your child, your boss.

There are a million little ways you can make a difference starting now. For more ideas on small, kind things you can do, check out Random Acts of Kindness, an organization dedicated to changing the world through good deeds.

2. An hour can go a long way. If you don’t have a ton of free time to spare, as little as an hour can go a long way toward making a real impact in your community. Whether you have an hour of free time a month, or an hour a day, taking that time to help at a local organization can make a huge difference. You can use your hour to walk dogs at a local animal shelter, visit a long-term care home to read to lonely patients, pack up clothes you don’t need and donate them to a homeless shelter, run or walk in a charity race, and so much more. Every little bit helps!

3. A pocketful of change helps, too. Not everyone can give write a huge check to help out a local charitable organization, but any donation size that you can comfortably give can pay for something Together, even pocket change can make a difference. If your workplace donates to a local charity, give what you can. Many employers match charitable contributions so check with our HR department to see if you can double your donation!

These are everyday things you can accomplish without giving up much yourself. But what if you want to keep the good work going?

Give back by doing what you know.

man working on construction project

There is no limit to how or how much you can give! You have knowledge, talents, and interests that can help someone. This kind of giving can be more time consuming but often comes with bigger rewards for yourself and the people you’re sharing your skills with. Here’s how can you leverage the skills you have to help the community you’re in:

1. Get crafty for a cause. Do you love to knit, sew, or crochet? There are many individuals and organizations who use those skills to make scarves, blankets, and hats to keep the homeless warm or to benefit those in cancer treatment.

2. Teach what you know. Depending on where you live, there may be a lot of people who need help with reading, writing, math, or other abilities. Donate your time to becoming a tutor at an after school or an adult literacy program. Through your education, you’ve gotten the confidence to push toward your dreams. You can help others do the same!

3. Start something. Is there something lacking in your community? A problem that others just don’t seem to be addressing? Maybe it’s your turn to take the lead and help others notice that this problem needs to be addressed. From starting your own organization to petitioning for change in your local government, you can bring awareness to a problem before it grows.

What are you good at? What can you share with the world? Besides doing good and being a positive force for change, you can sharpen your skills by making a difference doing what you love.

How will you change your world?

person holding coins with paper that says make a change

As you round out the year and reflect on what you’ve learned and accomplished, don’t forget to take time to remember there are still those who aren’t as fortunate. Every little bit that can be done by people like you and me makes a small, positive change. Giving back isn’t just seasonal, either. Volunteering and sharing your skills or your spare change is necessary throughout the year. What will you do to give back?