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Do you know how to reduce holiday stress? One university focuses on giving back

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(BPT) - If you feel stressed around the holiday season, you are far from alone. Between busier schedules, long to-do lists and high expectations, what should be a joyful time of year can instead offer real mental health challenges for people of all ages.

According to the Mayo Clinic, one tried-and-true method of lowering your own stress is to help others through actions like volunteering. To help employees, students and their community reduce stress during the season, DeVry University leans into its "Culture of Care," including initiatives to give back to and become more engaged with the community.

How colleagues and students can feel more engaged

"Building a sense of belonging is vital and starts with our Culture of Care: Care for our colleagues, students, families and the communities we serve," said Dave Barnett, chief administrative officer, DeVry University. "For everyone to feel a sense of belonging, especially around the holiday season, they must feel that our organization values them. A sense of gratitude drives engagement far more than short-term activities."

Becoming part of something larger than yourself is a vital part of feeling gratitude and a sense of purpose that can put everyday stressors in perspective. Here are a few ways the university encourages giving back to the community:

SMART Futures

DeVry's social responsibility initiative, SMART Futures, focuses on helping today's youth prepare for the careers of tomorrow, especially in communities where kids may not have sufficient technology fluency to keep up with fast-evolving tech fields. DeVry colleagues, faculty, students, alumni, and partners work together to help middle and high school students in underserved communities with hands-on experiences and resources to ensure they'll be ready for careers of the future.

For example, the SMART Futures program initiated a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of America and supported three local Clubs across the country this year, including a Summer Workforce Readiness Program and a new DeVry University STEM Lab.

HerWorld is another initiative from SMART Futures that introduces middle school girls to STEM subjects by building digital fluency and technology confidence while also encouraging curiosity in technology careers. HerWorld engages young girls in underrepresented school districts by sharing stories about the careers they could have with technology and giving them hands-on interaction with different types of technology.

Volunteer Time Off

As part of SMART Futures, the university provides paid time off for colleagues and faculty members to make an impact in the community, including volunteer opportunities with organizations that align to SMART Futures and support technology confidence among underserved youth including Boys & Girls Clubs, Junior Achievement and more. DeVry also encourages colleagues to support and volunteer at organizations important to them.

The DeVry Scholarship Fund

The DeVry Scholarship Fund is a 501(c)(3) public charity that works in partnership with, but separate from, DeVry University. The Fund supports the student journey by providing financial support in the form of competitive scholarships to qualifying students. Scholarships are awarded to current students, especially those with the greatest need and who have established a successful academic track record. The Scholarship Fund responds to student needs by assisting those who, without scholarships, may find it difficult to continue their education.

Through all of these efforts and more, DeVry's Culture of Care encourages everyone to show care by going the extra mile for colleagues in their day-to-day work lives, inspiring each other to bring their best to work every day. This translates into care for students by creating a positive environment where they experience high-quality, personalized learning supported by outstanding service.

"The holiday season is a great time for leaders of every organization to give back, to encourage a culture of giving back to the community, and to show appreciation to employees," added Barnett. "Openly expressing gratitude is very meaningful, and helping others is a positive way to show how much you appreciate what you already have — as well as what you're willing to give others to contribute to a positive community where everyone can thrive."

Learn more about DeVry University at DeVry.edu.