Our chapter had tremendous potential, and it was time to realize it

My school opened in the 1960s, and it has always had a National Honor Society (NHS) chapter. At first it was great, but over the years it began to decline; it was a disorganized group and the bylaws weren’t strong enough. I became the new adviser because I wanted to turn it back into what it should be. Now, the students truly see the value in the leadership opportunities they get by participating. Incoming freshmen are even beginning to ask how they can get into NHS, and that hasn’t always been a question on their minds.

Our chapter is one of the largest and most active student organizations on campus, and we promote time management, leadership, and dependability. In fact, the NHS president was trusted to be the liaison and keep everyone safe during the recent school walkouts because the teachers couldn’t be involved. The members are so hardworking and dedicated to their school as well as the individuals within it.

Our NHS students also want to give back to their community. Though the expectations and service requirements of membership are high, they rise to meet them with their projects. I try to encourage any workable idea they can think of, but I also ask for a thought-out business proposal. It’s one of the ways I’ve been able to customize our specific chapter and teach my students additional life skills. Their proposals have led to recycled-product drives, invasive-species removal, environmental clean-up events, tutoring at the public library, and partnerships with other schools to beautify campuses.

A particularly impactful project we did this past year was for an elementary school in our district. It’s an at-risk Title I, with 90 percent of the school on free and reduced-price lunch. We collected about 1,800 books for the school’s 400 students and hosted a book fair where each child could pick out four books. We also handed out information on literacy to the parents. This idea was ignited by the recent Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conference in Washington, D.C., and it resonated with our chapter as something we could do in our hometown.

Encouraging this community mindset among the students was one of my goals when I became an adviser, and in doing so we’re creating a better school culture. There’s a sense of cohesiveness that can sometimes be difficult to achieve, especially for a school like ours with 63 different countries represented.

There really isn’t a downside to leading an NHS chapter, especially given the resources the National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP) make available and the LEAD Conferences throughout the year. It does take work—establishing clear bylaws is important and communicating with the teachers and administration is key—but the kids are great to work with. I’ve been able to watch them mature into young adults who go on to Yale or Harvard, and several of my students have been awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

These are the students who become powerful leaders, and they strive to live up to NHS ideals. It’s what keeps me coming back.

For more information, and to start a chapter at your middle school or high school, visit www.nhs.us/why or www.nhjs.us/why.

Carrie Weese is an NHS adviser at John R. Tucker High School in Richmond, VA.

About the Author

Carrie Weese is an NHS adviser at John R. Tucker High School in Richmond, VA.

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