For a select group of young people, it was a night to remember in Washington, DC. Inside a hotel ballroom Monday evening, with proud advisers, parents, and principals in attendance, NASSP honored the 25 winners of the 2022 National Honor Society (NHS) scholarships. The event kicked off this year’s National Student Leadership Week, whose theme of “Trailblazing Leadership” was particularly apt given the challenges that students have faced in the wake of the pandemic.
“These leaders share an uncompromising selflessness, relentless drive, and exceptional intellect and are a force for change within their communities and beyond,” NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe told the 150 people attending the first-ever 2022 National Honor Society Scholarship Gala. The finalists, whom Nozoe described as “awe-inspiring,” were selected for demonstrating support of the four pillars of NHS: scholarship, service, leadership, and character.
This year, NASSP received 10,000 applications for the awards. Of those, 600 semifinalists were selected to each receive $3,200. From that top-notch group, 25 finalists, most of whom attended the Gala in person, were selected to each receive $5,625.
Evan Osgood, a senior at Loveland High School in Loveland, OH, was announced as this year’s national winner. Nozoe lauded Evan for his work starting two nonprofits, SOSforPPE, which makes and ships PPE assembly kits to those interested in making masks, and STEMsForYouth, which is committed to improving access to STEM and narrowing the digital divide. “This is the honor of a lifetime,” said Evan, who was awarded the $25,000 top prize. “Meeting the other finalists and learning their stories this weekend reinvigorated for me the power of our generation. We can do anything.”
Sheyla Street, the 2021 national NHS Scholarship winner, knows firsthand the pride and excitement Osgood felt upon learning that he had won. A graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia, Sheyla is currently finishing her first year at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. She attended the Gala as a guest speaker, sharing her experience as a Black woman committed to racial justice and serving her country. She also explained how the values NHS instilled in her continue to influence her worldview. “My purpose in life is to improve my community, and time and again the four pillars have guided me to forge my own path instead of taking the easy one right in front of me,” she said.
To emphasize the power of those four pillars in shaping today’s student leaders into the leaders of tomorrow, Nozoe announced that NASSP would also honor four additional outstanding student leaders for embodying the pillars. The following students received the inaugural awards and a total of $10,000 each in scholarships.
- Ethan Sandoval won the Character award presented by NASSP President Gregg Wieczorek. A senior at La Salle High School in Pasadena, CA, Ethan has channeled the resiliency he’s developed in facing health challenges by taking advantage of academic opportunities. For example, through community college courses and Stanford University’s Summer Session, he has learned five different programming languages, and he plans to study computer science in college.
“I’m very grateful. It feels surreal. I didn’t expect to win anything, and I’m extremely grateful,” he said. “This scholarship will help me prepare for my career, explore different science fields, and continue my service.”
- Owen Zhang won the Leadership award presented by former NASSP President Robert Motley. A senior at Bellaire High School in Bellaire, TX, Owen was attending a prospective student event at Yale University and could not attend the Gala. So, his adviser Jennifer Kuhleman accepted it on his behalf. Owen is the founder of Project Lights, Camera, Action, a nonprofit that promotes educational opportunities for Uyghur children and raises awareness about their plight.
While he couldn’t be there to accept the award, his adviser Jennifer Lea Kuhleman had this to say: “I feel good when I’m around him. He just inspires you to be better.”
- Pooja Muthuraj won the Scholarship award presented by Kip Motta, President-elect of NASSP. A senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, VA, Pooja established a local chapter of PERIOD, an international organization dedicated to ending period poverty and stigma around the world. She also co-founded Teen Polytx, a nonprofit which seeks to bridge divides between high school students from different sides of the political aisle.
“I am so grateful for this recognition and for this opportunity to have a seat at the table with the students and educators currently creating the future,” she said. “This scholarship means the world to me, and I have so much optimism for what is to come. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. Seriously, thank you so much.”
- Alyssa Speelman won the Service award presented by NASSP Board Member Kim Greer. A senior at St. Labre Indian Catholic High School in Ashland, MT, Alyssa volunteers to help the elderly and raise money for charities. She has worked to raise awareness around the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and has made casket covers for grieving families to place on the caskets of loved ones in her community who have died from COVID-19.
“My family has always stressed the importance of service for my community, and this award recognizes their hard work as much as mine,” she said. “This scholarship is an investment in my future and my community’s future, and I am so proud to be able to say that I am a part of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and an advocate for MMIW. This is only the beginning for us all.”