Through NHS, my students learned that the more you give to the world, the more you get back.
By teaching upper level students, I’m able to get to know them inside the classroom. When the chance came for me to work with them outside the classroom as a National Honor Society (NHS) adviser, it was a no-brainer.
NHS is a unique opportunity for students to broaden their horizons and have more service-based experiences than a typical high school student would. Although they are already involved in other school programs like sports or theater, NHS gets them out into the real world and connects them with their community. My students learn how to give back—and they ultimately get more in return as they grow into active members of society.
Our chapter has ongoing service projects throughout the year, and we focus on a range of issues such as human-trafficking awareness, environmental clean-up, health and disability, poverty, and more. We’ve also delivered Easter baskets to a children’s hospital nearby.
NHS students are learning how good it feels to help others who need it, whether it’s by taking part in a global cause or helping at the local level when we assist our feeder schools. We offer babysitting services for parent-teacher conferences or PTO meetings, and we always volunteer when they host schoolwide events.
Being involved with the rising students is a great way for NHS to set an example for the younger kids, who likely will become NHS members themselves one day. It’s a fulfilling cycle; I have the opportunity to make leaders out of more than just my chapter, but also future generations of students.
NHS can also serve as a platform for a student to take initiative and reach great potential individually. For instance, one of our beloved teachers was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. The school science department wanted to hold a schoolwide barbecue, and they asked our chapter to organize a kickball tournament to raise money. One of my graduating officers took on this challenge by herself and managed to raise $4,000 from the event.
Community service projects, whether they stem from the entire chapter or from only one member, make our high school look good. Our students break the mold of the “typical” teenager and are seen as incredible, compassionate young men and women who are willing to help anyone and everyone.
And it’s not just about a reputation—NHS membership has a measurable benefit. It looks great on college and scholarship applications, making our students stand out. In fact, our school as a 97 percent college attendance rate, and I’m proud to be part of it as an adviser.
An NHS chapter is a must-have at your school if you don’t have one already. It’s a way for your best students to learn how to help others and fall in love with doing so. The National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP) provides a lot of support to get you started, like the Adviser Online Community. The collective knowledge and experience there is highly beneficial, and any question you have will be answered with advice and examples from advisers who have been in your shoes.
NHS students learn how much they get back when they focus on improving their community, but they need someone to give them guidance along the way. This is your chance to give to them so that they may give to others—and everyone will be rewarded.
Dr. Bill McIlwee is a National Honor Society adviser at Eureka Sr. High School in Eureka, MO.