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General Make A Difference Day Ideas for Students

Community centers, parks, libraries, homeless shelters, hospitals and schools are all places where students can make a difference through service. When considering service activities with community agencies, include their representatives in the planning stages to ensure that your project will meet the needs of those agencies. Your local volunteer center may give you help.


  • Draw pictures to brighten rooms
  • Record original stories for patients
  • Tutor young patients
  • Collect and donate toys and books


  • Accompany handicapped peers
  • Campaign to save an endangered animal or adopt a zoo resident


  • Offer child care during Parent Open House
  • Create a directory for students listing libraries, sports programs and community service opportunities near school
  • Set up a peer counseling program
  • Ask students to recycle gently worn toys and clothing for a needy child


  • Repair worn books
  • Host story hours for younger children

Homeless shelters

  • Hold a blanket drive
  • Make and decorate knapsacks or baby quilts
  • Bake cookies
  • Take instant photos of children for families
  • Help sort and/or serve food


  • Start a graffiti watch and cleanup
  • Plant and care for trees
  • Assist with voter registration drives
  • Put on a puppet show about caring for a neighborhood park
  • Build benches or playground equipment
  • Plant trees and seeds in a fire-damaged area

Day-care or senior centers

  • Be a "pal" to a child or elderly person
  • Collaborate on story or joke books
  • Teach computer skills

Grades K-3

Young children are willing helpers. They like solving puzzles and learning how things fit together. They learn best through hands-on experiences as they receive encouragement.

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Grades 4-8

While planning their fourth annual food and clothing drive, a group of middle-schoolers in suburban Pittsburgh decided to take their efforts a step further. In previous years, they joined forces with a non-profit group run by former homeless people to hand-deliver the donations directly to the "people on the streets." Inspired by their visits, which provided much-needed human contact for the homeless and gave students personal insight into the problem, they extended the idea to a hospital for homeless veterans. They now regularly bring food and supplies to both groups.

Alisia Orosco, 10, wanted to bring some cheer to the sick and abused kids at University Children's Hospital in Abilene, Texas, where her brother had been a patient. She earned money doing chores and used it to buy stuffed animals for the hospitalized children. The next year, Alisia enlisted her school and businesses to increase the size and impact of the project. She continues to focus on helping a special child each year.

For the fifth year, Maple Crest Middle School Student Council stocked the Kokomo, Ind., Rescue Mission shelves for the winter. After rallying donations from the community, students in 6th-8th grades restocked and refurbished the shelter and pampered residents on Make A Difference Day.

Grades 9-12

Joining forces at a military base, teens at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska cleaned and restocked the shelves of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission, visited local elderly and disabled residents and entertained kids at a community event.
High school students in the agricultural town of Lynden, Wash., made a difference in the lives of some needy children by building a playground at a migrant workers' camp - complete with fort, sandbox, seesaw and tire swings. They enlisted a lumber yard and a building supply store to donate materials for the project.

Teens in Vernon, N.J., decided to offer their assistance at the local soup kitchen. Only there wasn't one. They created a make-shift, one-day soup kitchen and were able to feed 60 needy residents and provide leftovers to take home. Their efforts gave voice to an unrecognized need in their community. In response to their efforts and success, a permanent soup kitchen was created with the $10,000 National Award they received from Newman's Own Inc.

High school students in Las Vegas helped 30 homeless adults compose professional resumes during a job fair they held at the area's largest homeless shelter. At least nine of the adults later found jobs.

More In Make A Difference Day

Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored annually by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 800 carrier newspapers. Make A Difference Day takes place on the 4th Saturday in October each year.