Imagine what could happen if you committed to taking 20 minutes out of your busy life three times a week to quiet your mind and reflect on how you could be generous and give to others.

This is the challenge that alumnus Joe Johnson ’98, partner with DeLong & Brower Financial Services, issued to Hope Forward juniors recently as part of their Financial Foundations series. In this co-curricular series, students focused on topics such as budgeting, managing debt, investing and retirement, and financial planning.

“You can’t just say, ‘I want to be a generous person.’ You have to be intentional,” Joe, parent of Hope nursing major Brooklyn, told the students.

Joe handed the students a list of 30 small actions they could take that would easily fit in their daily routine. He asked them to choose three to five that most resonated with them. When practiced over time, Joe told the students, these acts will build the powerful habit of lifelong generosity.

“Generosity is more than giving money,” Joe explained. “Kindness is an act of generosity; listening, putting away the tech and focusing on what’s important to another person; finding out the needs of others and of the community—there are so many ways to be generous and invest in people.”

Being generous is also good for you. Joe pointed to studies that show generous people have increased happiness, improved mental health, lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.

“People can get a ‘helper’s high’—a wonderful feeling when endorphins are released, which can combat depression,” he said.

Generosity is one of the three pillars of Hope Forward, a funding model where students receive their tuition paid for by donors and agree to pay it forward at any amount they choose after graduation so other students can have the same opportunity. Hope’s goal is for all students to have their tuition covered. For now, groups of about 40 Hope Forward students are being added each academic year while long-term funding is raised to cover everyone.

Access and community are the other pillars of Hope Forward. Program Director Nicole Dunteman said co-curricular programming, which all Hope Forward students participate in outside of their regular classes, is designed to help students lead lives of impact rooted in generosity and gratitude. This idea is what excites Joe Johnson most about the program.

“What they are doing with students—giving them a foundational guide to life which centers around leadership and generosity—I was blown away when I found out this part of the program existed,” Joe said. “This is four years of working with students to be good human beings. They are teaching kids to be good stewards. This is seldom taught in high school and college.”

“That’s what students will take away more so than what they learn in the classroom,” Joe added.

He coached students to see their future careers as a “platform for ministry, witness, and generosity” not just a means to pay the bills. When you love and embrace your work, using it as a means to develop your God-given gifts, it has a ripple effect in impacting the lives of others, Joe said.

Ultimately, that’s what Hope Forward is all about.

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