When I joined the faculty at the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, MD, in November 2021, I was asked by the new principal to be the NHS adviser because of my previous experience as an NJHS adviser. As I began to gather information, I learned that the chapter wasn’t active and that all the members had graduated the previous year.
Working with our two counselors who had been involved with the chapter in the past, we set to work reading through the resources for faculty advisers on the NHS website, and we recruited some of our most dedicated teachers to help draft our chapter’s bylaws, selection/induction process, member profiles, and candidate information packet. In April 2022, our work paid off when we officially inducted 33 senior class members. A couple months later, we inducted 91 candidates—our largest cohort to date. Given our growth, I asked my colleague, Jerry Comparativo, to serve as my co-adviser this school year because he was so helpful with last year’s induction ceremonies.
I attribute our large membership to the fact that our school is the first early college high school in Maryland. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma and an Associate of General Studies or an Associate of Arts in Teaching. Our school enrolls 397 students in grades 9–12—or Year 1, 2, 3, and 4, as we refer to them. Almost all 2nd year students meet the 3.0 eligibility criteria to be considered for NHS. But our NHS chapter members must go beyond fulfilling this academic requirement to be selected.
Although our students come from across our very large county, we’ve still been able to host two service projects this year. One was the Give Thanks, Give Food drive for Thanksgiving, which was a partnership with the National Capital Area Food Bank. We decorated food boxes, placed them around campus, and publicized the food drive through our NHS and school-based social media. The majority of our members participated, and we collected more than 500 pounds of non-perishable food in the five days before Thanksgiving break.
The second project was our Giving Tree, which focused on the social and emotional wellness of our Year 1 Students as they faced the challenge of final exam week (as first-year college students). But instead of having students buy gifts for kids in need, our chapter members came up with the idea of writing motivational messages to the Year 1 students before their first final exam week to encourage them to keep up the hard work. Their messages included proverbs, quotes, advice with spiritual content, anecdotes, and letters to specific students (like siblings). Almost all our chapter members participated, with 81 of them writing such notes.
Our chapter faces challenges due to our school location, the size of our chapter, and members’ varying schedules. Many students travel by bus for more than an hour to and from school, and they have heavy course schedules. So. it’s been amazing to see the growth of our chapter over the last semester.
Because our students live all over the county, we meet virtually for general meetings. But we still have a huge presence on campus. Our organization has the largest membership of any of our high school’s organizations, and our NHS members hold leadership positions in many other clubs and organizations in our school. For example, Sadichhya Shahi and My Thanh Katherlyn Le are both Year 4 students and NHS members who were elected to serve as the Prince George’s Community College’s Student Governance Association president and vice-president, respectively. Holding elected positions at the college level affords them the opportunity to help bridge the gap between both schools since our students are members of both communities.
I’m also proud of Saniyah Ikard and Zoë McCall, two of our Year 4 NHS members who chartered a new Black Student Union this year. They wanted to create an inclusive and safe space for students to embrace Black culture, while also educating students of all races and ethnicities. They have already hosted a discussion on the impact of violence and policing in our community and a gingerbread house competition for our underclassmen after final exams.
One thing that has surprised me about our NHS members is that they don’t see their NHS membership as something just to add to their college applications. They feel a real sense of pride and accomplishment in being selected, but they also want to ensure the chapter has a strong presence on campus. I remember the pride I felt when I was inducted over 30 years ago at Oxon Hill High School, also in Prince George’s County. Many of our students also have parents or siblings who were in NHS, so their families understand that pride of being a member, too.
I’m also hearing more from the parents of freshmen and sophomores about how their children can get in, and some parents are even suggesting possible service project ideas. Especially since our school has so many students of color, I love seeing the pride they have in our chapter becoming stronger in our community.