Upon graduating with a decent engineering degree and working just about enough to pay off the debt, how can one give back to the society?
My mother always emphasized on something - "always leave something better than how you found it". I would like to live up to her model.
The good thing about giving back is that it can be done in so many ways. I would suggest volunteering your time and expertise. Find something that you are passionate about and see how you can help out.
You can try www.volunteermatch.org to find volunteer opportunities close to you.
Since no one else has mentioned it, I would like to bring up that I've known many engineers who like to give back to the community by volunteering at schools where they can use their engineering skills to tutor/inspire youths to go into STEM. There are many mentoring and tutoring programs that give you the opportunity to really feel like you are making a difference. A few programs I can think of off the top of my head are Big Brothers Big Sisters, CASA, or TryEngineering, but there are probably many more local ones near you as well. I've also known a few that like to volunteer via hotlines (e.g. suicide hotlines, runaway hotlines, etc.). Others are very into animals and will volunteer through shelters or foster abandoned pets. Essentially, there are a thousand different ways you can give back to the community, so you are definitely not limited in options. It really just depends on you and what you like!
The first and most important thing that you can do is to get to know yourself well enough to identify what career area might be best suited for you personality traits and then talk to people in that career area to see if it indeed fits and get the advice and suggestions of people involved in that area. A great way for you to pay back is to be a role model and share your education and career experience with those who might not have a role model or someone else who could help them see how they might into a career area and also give back to society in that way. That assistance is needed and would be valued by many.
Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .
Ken recommends the following next steps:
There are 100s of non-profit organizations in your area who can use help - particularly engineering help. I am not sure what type of engineer you are, but there are lots of areas you can give back. If you want to use some of your engineering - consider organizations like Habitat for Humanity or even a small non-profits who need IT computer help. If you want to do something different, become a Master Gardener and give back in a completely different field. Religious groups, political groups, volunteering for election board voting ... your opportunities are limitless. I love to see young people wanting to give back. As a Virginia Tech grad I am a firm believer in our moto - Ut Prosim (That I may serve). I've built my life around this - service to myself, my family, my company, my community, my nation, and my world.
You can give back in many ways that don't involve $. Check out local volunteer opportunities such as serving meals to the homeless or do some random acts of kindness -- hand out bottles of water to construction workers or police officers. There are also many volunteer positions you can do online such as promoting nonprofits whose work you believe in.
It's great that you want to give back. Also send your Mom a hand-written thank you note for raising you well!
With every good wish!!