Graduation Gifts That Pay It Forward (page 2)

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Updated on May 17, 2013

Gifts that encourage

  • Savings plan for college (529 plan) that can be used for any type of college expense
  • Prepaid college tuition plan
  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (formerly known as Education IRA)
  • U.S. Treasury Bond that will mature after graduation from college
  • GPS to make it safe for the graduate to explore a new location
  • Backup hard drive so the graduate knows all that hard work will be safe if the main hard drive crashes
  • Regular emails, notes and care packages

Hannah Maret is on the freshman crew team at Lehigh University. “We are currently in the middle of winter training, which has arguably been one of the most mentally exhausting experiences I have ever had,” she says. Just when the going gets toughest for the freshman team, their coach emails a message from a varsity rower who was on the freshman team the previous year. The messages combine empathy with inspiration. “In a way, these thoughts and reflections are a graduation gift from the varsity girls who we know and respect,” she says. “The pride that they feel as they look back on their freshman season provides us with just the right amount of incentive and encouragement to move forward with ours.”

Gifts that connect

  • Data plan for a cell phone or device
  • Donation to Angel Flight, a program that connects volunteer pilots to those who need transportation for medical treatment
  • Support for the graduate’s participation in student ambassador programs that connect the United States with other countries

When Luke Shearin was in high school, his family hosted a student from China, and, with his family’s support, Shearin traveled to China to return the visit. He is now a freshman at New York University. “The opportunity to learn about this other culture, to make friends halfway around the world, truly shaped my future aspirations,” he says. “We no longer just live in our own one town, one state, or even one country. Rather, we need to look at ourselves as global citizens.” Shearin’s goal is to use his experience to expand the student ambassador program.

Gifts that help others become graduates

  • Contribution to KIND (Kids in Need of Desks) so parents in Africa have the materials and tools to build desks in nearby schools
  • Donation to programs such as Heifer to help families in need generate income to pay for school
  • Mentoring a student in the graduate’s honor or inviting the graduate to mentor a student
  • Donation in the graduate’s name to the school library

Linda Beeman is a writer and real estate agent who has traveled extensively in Asia. She recalls a graduation gift that changed several lives. “About a year after I’d first traveled to Bhutan, my host sounded me out about helping his youngest daughter gain admittance to a college in the U.S. He asked if I could sponsor her,” she says. She decided she could offer $10,000 per year if, indeed, the young woman was accepted at a college in the U.S. Fifteen years later, the young woman is married to an American classmate, has a child and lives only a short drive away from Beeman, who is like a mother to her.

Graduates need space and independence as they move forward into the next chapter of their lives, but they should also be reminded that their family and friends have their backs. The graduation gift is an opportunity to let the graduate know how much you care, so think outside the box. Gifts that give back remind both graduates and well-wishers that the future is as bright as their hopes and dreams.  

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