For two weeks each August, Neu-Life teens at the Youth Work Innovation Center (YWIC) are in high demand in Milwaukee’s near north-side neighborhood of Lindsay Heights. During Pay it Foward week, teens volunteer their time to beautify public spaces and make light repairs to homes of residents. The teens use collaborative decision making to choose which projects they’ll undertake and how the projects will be completed. For Neu-Life, the goal of Pay It Forward is not just to beautify the neighborhood, but also to build relationships with neighbors, and those releationships in turn reduce crime and vandalism.   

Some of those residents are elderly, others simply lack the expertise to carry out the projects, but everyone touched by Pay it Foward benefits from a helping hand and and connecting with someone who cares, including the teens who are doing the work.

The notion of Pay it Foward has been known to set off a chain reaction or pyramid of goodwill. Specifically for youth, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found in 2018, that teens engaged in civic activities were more likely than non-engaged peers to attain higher income and education levels as adults. For Neu-Life teens, Pay it Foward introduces the concept of “greater good” at a time in their life when the ability to take on new responsibilities - and freedoms - can have a critical effect on their future. Neu-Life teens gain the pride of knowing that their work is contributing to the greater good and develop job and life skills in the process.

*Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. (2018, January 23). Civic engagement can help teens thrive later in life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180123101911.htm

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