Put aside the standardized test scores, budget spreadsheets, and graduation rate analysis for your school for just a moment—and join me in some time for reflection.

Think about the students who made a difference in your school or community in a truly significant way. After all, these are the moments that remind us of our impact as educational leaders.

As this year’s record number of applicants for the National Honor Society (NHS) Scholarship clearly proves, there is an abundance of students who fit the bill. And, they were supported by principals who were effusive with praise for their accomplishments. It’s likely very validating for school leaders to be able to point with pride to those students who have made particularly impactful achievements.

The Proof

This year, the NHS Scholarship program opened its process to allow any senior NHS member in good standing to apply for one of the 300 scholarships being awarded. In previous years, the process permitted chapters only a limited number of nominees, thus limiting the program’s access for many worthy candidates.

This year, a record number of applicants, some 25,000 total, shared stories of extraordinary scope—from the profound impact Little League baseball players made on one applicant’s life as their coach, to a young lady who founded a leadership camp for middle school girls aimed at combatting bullying, to another social entrepreneur who founded a program of youth mentoring youth on STEM enrichment.

This year’s national winner, Kali Horn of York International School in Thornton, CO, “has the highest 20160518_192532integrity of any student I have ever met,” explains her principal Laura Nelson. “Kali not only participates in school service activities, but she runs and creates many of those opportunities. She created her own nonprofit called Totes and Teddies to support foster children feeling safe in their new homes.” In spite of her own family’s adversity and challenges, Kali undertook her initiative as she maintained stellar grades, in addition to participating in a youth symphony and local chamber orchestra.

Imagine the impact that the school and community enjoy as a result of Kali’s work.

The Big Announcement

To notify Kali of her honor, I flew to Colorado to surprise her during her school’s senior awards night. With the help of her NHS adviser and principal, I was able to pull off a reveal reminiscent of a Publisher’s Clearinghouse moment, without the big check, but with an important message. Before formally introducing myself and why I was present, I shared with the students and faculty who had assembled that my purpose is to celebrate students while diligently working to ensure their success at every level of education, from elementary to doctoral studies. I wanted them to know that my goal is to promote a lifetime of success for each student.

It has been extremely gratifying to know that NASSP, as the founder and administrator of NHS, has had a significant hand—through the NHS Scholarship program—in helping open the door for many in their pursuit of higher education aspirations. Since 1946, the program has awarded more than $13 million to more than 16,000 students.

Next year, the program will reach a new pinnacle when it awards $1 million disbursed among 400 deserving NHS members. Ultimately, the program will award $2 million a year.

Why Become an NHS Affiliate?

National Honor Society members become remarkable ambassadors for their schools and communities through their leadership and service, contributing to the positive climate of schools around the globe.

If your school is not already an affiliate of the National Honor Society, I invite you to explore the opportunity by visiting the National Honor Society website. This year, NHS launched a robust array of programs and services aimed at increasing college access and success, while continuing to support leadership development and service planning for members.

If your school is affiliated, encourage your members to apply for an NHS Scholarship. The 2016-17 NHS Scholarship program will open in the fall. You and your adviser will be notified.

Now, tell me your story of personal triumph: Is there a student who has validated your role as a school leader?

About the Author

Jonathan Mathis is the director of the National Honor Societies, which are programs of NASSP. Follow him on Twitter @mathis_phd.

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