Who We Serve

Project Pay It Forward is provided at no cost to community and youth organizations, educators, school enrichment and after-school programs. The Project Pay It Forward program is available for all youth in grades 6-12, with a special focus on at-risk and disadvantaged youth.

  • Why Youth Should Volunteer
  • Why Youth Should Volunteer
  • Health Benefits of Volunteering

Why Do We Focus on At-Risk & Disadvantaged Youth?

According to the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, disadvantaged youth are less likely to volunteer than their peers. Sadly, only 10 percent of disadvantaged youth believe that they can make a big difference in their community, and 41 percent think they make a “little, almost none, or no difference at all”.

How Volunteering Can Help

Research shows that low self-esteem, a lack of a sense of community, and unreached educational potential are seriously harming the lives of youth in America. Studies indicate that volunteering can alleviate those problems and have a broader positive impact on the lives of youth.

It is urgent to take action to improve young people’s self-esteem, increase their feeling of connectedness, and develop their educational opportunities. Low self-esteem is associated with many psychological, physical, and social consequences that detrimentally affect adolescent development including depression, anxiety, violent behavior and substance abuse. Research also suggests that low self-esteem in adolescence may be a harbinger for poor longer-term outcomes, such as fewer years of post-secondary education, greater likelihood of joblessness and financial difficulties, as well as poorer mental/physical health and higher rates of criminal behavior. Scholars also report that low social capital, or one's sense of belonging and community, is related to teen violence and that social connectedness plays a protective role in reducing the risk of adolescent violence.

The benefits of volunteering help at-risk and disadvantaged youth in many ways that last a lifetime. Advisory Board Member Dr. Stephen Post, an expert on the benefits of volunteering, shares that while helping youth get involved in volunteering is good for the community and people they help, it's also very good for them and shines a protective halo that follows a young person their whole life as they live longer and healthier lives.

Dr. Stephen Post, who is Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, and Founder of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, authored a study that found people who give back to others lead more happy and healthy lives than those who do not volunteer.

The research on the physical and mental health benefits of volunteering is very powerful, especially for patients with mild to moderate depression and substance abuse problems. In addition to a higher sense of purpose and lower stress levels, people who give back are less likely to feel hopeless and lonely than those who do not volunteer.

He shares about these benefits of helping others in his book Good Things Happen to Good People and the Project Pay It Forward documentary film:

People Who Volunteer Report:
  • Feeling Good After Volunteering · 95%

  • Feeling Physically Healthier · 68%

  • Feeling Less Stress · 73%

  • Sleeping Better · 58%

Grant Opportunities for Youth

Grant opportunities to support youth paying it forward are currently offered to youth in schools, enrichment and after-school programs, and nationwide through our partnerships with select youth organizations.

Benefits of Volunteering
Numerous research studies have shown that youths who volunteer gain an increased sense of self-efficacy, higher academic achievement and interest on furthering their education, improved problem-solving and collaborative skills, and an enhanced civic engagement attitude.
— Search Institute  
Helper's High
Dr. Allan Luks coined the term “Helper’s High” to describe the powerful physical feelings people experience when directly helping others—to explain the real benefits to volunteers’ physical and emotional health. Today, this awareness has become internationally recognized as a way to recruit volunteers.
Mother Teresa Effect
Psychologist David McClelland conducted a study in which Harvard students watched a film of Mother Teresa tending to orphans in Calcutta. These students had significant increases in the antibody salivary immunoglobulin A (S-IgA). He discovered that even just thinking about doing a good deed had a positive impact on the immune system, a concept that is now referred to as the “Mother Teresa effect”.
Live Longer
Even when controlling for other factors such as age, health, and gender, research has found that when individuals volunteer, they are more likely to live longer.
Overcoming Depression
Volunteering enhances one’s sense of purpose while placing them in a social environment. Such generosity makes people feel better about themselves, builds confidence, and combats feelings of isolation and depression.
Making Us Happy
People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness. People who help others on a regular basis also improve their health.