Six Ideas to Honor the 2024 Graduate

by | May 20, 2024

The front page of today’s newspaper has a wonderful story about a graduating high school senior at the top of his class, already facing life’s realities and unexpected changes to his dreams. You remember the dreams when we were young and barely tarnished by life’s bumps and bruises.

Many of us are like silversmiths, rags and polish in hand, working on the dark spots to shine up our life legacy. I’m especially aware of that as I look to a fiftieth high school reunion at the end of the month.

Attending graduation ceremonies, honoring graduates in church services, or opening announcements for the children and grandchildren of friends and family provide a great opportunity to add to our legacy and model generosity.

These are celebrations for what is ending and what’s finally finished for many. They are a threshold event with doors opening and paths disappearing into foggy futures. It is pivotal for some entering the work world while others are off to college or job training.

Pondering a Graduation Gift

For us, it brings surprises and memories. Several years ago, I received a graduation announcement and was surprised at the picture of a young woman I only knew through her parents. I’d known a little about her as she grew up. Through the years, I thought of her as a charming little girl. The young woman staring at me was grown-up and ready to take on college.

I debated how to congratulate and honor her as she started into adulthood. How could I convey that I’m proud of what she’s becoming? How could I honor her sweet spirit and role model generosity that respects her interests?

From Degree Hi to Flat Low

Graduations remind me of the day I graduated from high school. I looked forward to going off to college and the key to my first car. It wasn’t a new car, but a car all my own.

After the pomp and circumstance of graduation, I shed the cap and gown and headed out in my new car to join friends for my first night as a near-adult. Two blocks from home, I had my first flat tire.

So, I walked home to announce to my parents – yes, near tears – that I already had a flat tire. My dad sprang into action, still needed by his nearly grown-up daughter. With the tire changed, I returned to my big night with the first of many almost-adult lessons about unexpected events, navigating between independence and needing help.

I still remember some of the gifts I received from family and friends of my parents. One of my mother’s cousins sent a book of poems about life that I kept for many years. And there was a giant, orange beach towel that became a chewable comforter for the new puppy last year.

Know the Graduate First

Generation Z is now graduating. Digital natives and social media savvy, this generation is independent and entrepreneurial. They are more collaborative than previous generations and more involved in early volunteerism and philanthropy than any previous generation. They fundraise for causes they care about and support the causes of friends.

If you’re pondering a gift to a Gen Z graduate, consider honoring them with a donation to a cause they care about, plus something small they can use to prepare for whatever is next for them.

Ideas for Where to Send the Honorarium

  • Has the graduate volunteered at a nonprofit organization?
  • Ask the graduate where they would give if they had $1,000 to donate.
  • Check their social media page – TikTok, Instagram, etc. Are they posting about a particular issue? Find an organization doing that kind of work.
  • Have they actively fundraised for a project or an issue, and you can make a gift in their honor?
  • What do they plan to study in college or hope to become? For instance, if he hopes to be a pediatrician someday, find a nonprofit that provides medical services to children.
  • Does she talk about traveling to a foreign country to make a difference? Find a nonprofit working in that country.

Think about all the bits and pieces you know about the graduate and find somewhere to donate in their honor. Don’t worry if their dreams are idealistic.

It isn’t about being right or getting the perfect gift. Donate to a cause they are passionate about right now.

Model generosity with your gift to a nonprofit organization and trust them to find their best future.

How are you modeling generosity for the young people in your life?

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