Project Pay It Forward


Our Project Pay It Forward program inspires the youth to make a positive change by applying their special skills, unique talents and passions to make a difference in their community.

The original legacy program started in Manhattan and grew to reach students in over 40 states across the nation, fostering positive youth development and encouraging youth to pay it forward in their communities through easily accessible character education, resources, video, interactive platforms, grant opportunities, community events and more.

The very first Project Pay it Forward community event in Manhattan brought together nonprofit organizations, community leaders and educators to support youth paying it forward and raise awareness of several nonprofit causes and community programs making a positive impact in New York City. At this event we awarded a grant to the Green Team students of Millennium High School, the environmental after-school club that sparked an urban farming movement in lower Manhattan, to support and empower their youth-led initiatives to pay it forward.

Project Pay It Forward Event Speakers

  • Dr. Stephen Post, Founder & President of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love
  • Amy Mint,Project Pay It Forward Founder
  • Paul Hovitz, Community Board 1, Youth and Education Committee, Co-Chair
  • Yume Kitasei, Margaret Chin (District 1 Council Member) Chief of Staff
  • Warrie Price, Founder & President of The Battery Conservancy
  • Lisa Zullig, Director of Nutrition Services at God's Love We Deliver
  • Jared Spafford, Director of Culinary Operations of Drive Change
  • Deborah Soffel, Garden to School Café Program
  • Cheryl Blayblock, Trees New York
  • Colin McEvoy, Millennium HS Principal
  • Joyce Kong, Millennium HS Educator & Green Team Advisor
  • Sylvie Edman, Millennium HS Alumna
  • Millennium HS Students on the Green Team


Today, the newest phase of this program continues our goal to encourage and empower the youth to pay it forward, helping students to develop a greater sense of community and belonging, and raise their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

Program Origins in Manhattan


  • Amy Mintz gives Project Pay It Forward Grant for Green Team Students and Joyce Kong
  • Paul Hovitz and Lisa Zullig at Project Pay It Forward Event
  • Warrie Price and Jared Spafford at Project Pay It Forward Event
  • Project Pay It Forward Honorary Ambassador, Event Speakers, and Green Team students
  • Project Pay It Forward Playbill and Program Schedule
  • Project Pay It Forward Event Attendees



Why Encourage Youth to Volunteer?

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.

Volunteering Benefits Proven by Research

Project Pay It Forward Advisory Board Member Allan Luks (Founding Director of the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Fordham University and leading expert on volunteerism) coined the term “Helper’s High” in his book The Healing Power of Doing Good 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.

The benefits of volunteering help at-risk and disadvantaged youth in many ways that last a lifetime. As shared by Project Pay It Forward Advisory Board Member Emeritus Dr. Stephen Post (Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Founder of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love), 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. Post authored a study that found people who give back to others lead happier and healthier 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.

Did You Know?

People Who Volunteer Report:
  • Feeling Good After Volunteering · 95%
  • Feeling Physically Healthier · 68%
  • Feeling Less Stress · 73%
  • Sleeping Better · 58%
  • Why Youth Should Volunteer
  • Why Youth Should Volunteer
  • Health Benefits of Volunteering


More Benefits of Volunteering:

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  
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.

Project Pay it Forward Coalition

It takes a team effort to change the world. If your organization believes in and upholds the pay it forward concept, please contact us to be part of our Project Pay it Forward Coalition. Our goal is to collaborate with others so that we can make the strongest impact together. Here are some our affiliates, supporters, strategic alliance partners, and organizations that advocate paying it forward.






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