By Marcus D. Dumas, MPH, CHES
On March 14, 1986, legendary football coach Woody Hayes delivered the commencement address at The Ohio State University. Like many speeches before, he started with a simple phrase, “Pay It Forward.” He continued with the following statement, “So seldom can we pay back because those who helped the most, will be long gone, but you will find that you do want to pay. You can pay back only seldom, but you can always pay forward.”
So what does this idea of paying it forward mean and how is it applicable to college success? Well, this expression is used to describe the beneficence of a good deed shown to another person instead of to the original benefactor. Volunteering or helping others pays off during any stage in life, but it is even more beneficial to the college student. College is the time in your life where you will learn the most about yourself and will formulate ideas that will direct your path in life. There are many reasons a person should pay it forward. Let’s discuss a few of them below. Many of these reasons are directly correlated with reasons a person might enroll in college.
Discover Your Passions
Many young people attend college to gain skills that will make them more valuable to future employers. As is the case, through volunteering to pay it forward, you will gain real world experience through hands on work and could potentially explore a college major or future career. For example, while volunteering at a local health clinic and with a youth enrichment program, I was able to solidify my decision to seek a career that would allow me to improve the quality of life of adolescents.
Get Outside Your Social Circle
Through my commitment to pay it forward, I also had the opportunity to meet new people who I might not have met otherwise. Although I might have been helping others, each person I met gave me a new insight on life and helped broaden my understanding of life.
Share Your Experience With Others
When you decide to live a life of paying it forward through service, you truly realize that even the smallest deed done can make the biggest impact on others. I am reminded of numerous occasions where I have volunteered to sit on a panel or do some type of community service and it is during these events that I have the opportunity to share my story of struggles and lessons I have learned. Through these conversations, I am able to discuss what I would have done differently which in turn helps another person who might be going through the same thing. I have come to realize that many of the challenges I have faced had nothing to do with me, but instead had to occur because I would meet someone else who would soon be faced with the same decisions.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished…it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” (Denzel Washington)
The greatest lesson I have learned from committing my life to paying it forward is, while my intention for going to college was to become successful in my future career, when you dedicate your life to paying it forward, you become significant. Many people believe they are successful because they have everything they need in life, hence they have added value to themselves. But the true beauty comes when you become significant and add value to the life of others. True success only comes when you know you have made a significant impact in the lives of others.
Blueprint understands getting ready for college goes well beyond the typical college prep information, focusing on a holistic approach to college and career readiness. Of course we’ll get you on campus. Attending classes. Getting loads of information about applications. Tips on how to write an application essay. But we also focus on really getting you prepared for what comes after high school. Every Saturday, Blueprint students get out in the community and volunteer! Find out more about Blueprint’s unique pre-college programs.
Marcus Dumas has worked directing Blueprint’s pre-college summer programs since 2015. A graduate of Morehouse College, Marcus first begun public speaking during his first semester as a Man of Morehouse when charged by his elders to “Never forget where you come from and always go back to inspire others to achieve greatness.” A Health Educator by training, Marcus enjoys working with young adults, which led him to a position as a Professor at Georgia Perimeter College teaching courses in both Public Health and Personal & Community Health. To keep him focused on his mission of being an agent of change he has uses the following mantra to encourage him daily, “ASPIRE TO INSPIRE BEFORE YOU EXPIRE!”