As the co-adviser of a National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) chapter at the American International School in Egypt, I’m constantly amazed at the students I work with. They come from all over the world, but the majority are Egyptian or Egyptians with dual nationalities. I work with a fantastic co-adviser, Nina Picard.
There’s a lot of need and a lot of opportunity in our community for helping others, so I feel like we have an awesome platform to start with, and the kids have really embraced the value of service. Everywhere you look, there is someone in need, so our chapter’s focus has been on giving back to the community. Our middle school theme this year is “More Than Me,” and we’ve embraced the principal’s theme of getting the whole school involved in volunteer efforts and service days.
This year we’ve visited orphanages, including those for children with special needs, and the students worked to help Syrian refugees in the past few years. Earlier this month, we did a schoolwide service day, where students went out to help different organizations, such as animal shelters and orphanages, and some of them also helped prepare hot meals for people in need.
We have a chapter of 25 students in a school of just under 500 students. In our chapter, the students basically run everything. As a teacher, if I have a class of 25 students, I know it can be difficult. And at our school, we’re not used to having that number of students in a room. So, it’s been an interesting process to have them run their own meetings with that many students.
The kids get so much out of NJHS—things like leadership skills, character building, and giving back to the community. This year, they are trying to put on a school dance to raise money for the chapter, and next year they are planning a bigger bazaar and carnival fundraiser. I really love that they come up with these ideas on their own. My co-adviser and I help them along the way with some of the details, but the ideas really are theirs. We’re just supporting them through the process.
I love our diverse school community, and I love the excitement our students have about everything. Sometimes it’s even hard to contain because they’re always so ready for new things. There’s just a lot of energy in this school and in the chapter and in the students.
I honestly don’t know where they get the energy. Some of my kids are going from 5 in the morning to 9 at night. In addition to school, they’ve got sports practice before and after school, and tutoring and extra lessons at night, as well as all the things we do as a chapter.
But they never complain. A lot of my kids fasted during Ramadan, but we still had service days. In fact, they wanted to engage in service projects more during that time than during any other time of the year, which shows their strong commitment to giving back. During Ramadan, they have no food or water from sunup to sundown, but I didn’t hear one complaint about being tired or hungry. One of the things they did was help prepare meals because they wanted to make sure people had food when they broke the fast at sundown.
I’m really proud of the kids. This is all their doing. I’m excited to come back and work with them next year. And I’m especially excited for them and proud of who they are becoming.