Reston, VA—The National Honor Society (NHS) is excited to announce that this school year it is giving $2 Million away in scholarships to 600 NHS students. The NHS Scholarship program is supported by NHS’s parent organization, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“I am humbled to recognize these outstanding student leaders for the tremendous work they’ve done for their communities,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “We hope that honoring their hard work will inspire others to rise to the challenges of the moment. Their ability and resilience to persevere in the face of uncertainty bodes well for our future.”
The scholarships recognize students who demonstrate support of the four pillars of NHS membership: scholarship, service, leadership, and character. One national winner will receive $25,000, while 24 finalists each earn a $5,625 scholarship. In addition, 575 semifinalists will receive $3,200 scholarships. For the first time ever, NASSP is bringing the finalists together, with their NHS student advisers, and announcing the national winner at a gala on the evening of April 25.
Below are the bios of the 2022 NHS scholarship finalists:
Zion Alexander; Ridge Point High School; Missouri City, TX
Zion’s passion for and dedication to his community is evident throughout his work and in the mission of the nonprofit he co-founded, the Called to Serve Collaborative. The organization distributes food items to those in need throughout the Houston area. Through his engagement in various community initiatives, Zion has spearheaded efforts to raise significant funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, March of Dimes, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Sickle Cell Association of Texas Marc Thomas Foundation. He has held numerous leadership positions, including Texas DECA District 3 president, St. Jude Leadership Society, and vice president of his school’s NHS chapter.
Queen Balina; Winston Churchill High School; Potomac, MD
After observing that her high school was receiving negative news coverage for race-related incidents, Queen co-founded her school’s Restorative Justice Student Coalition. The students in the organization focus on the pursuit of courageous conversations and the proactive prevention of future discrimination. Queen’s work led to the convening of more than 200 circle conversations involving all students enrolled in the school, and she has since received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations and earned an internship in related work. Among her many other pursuits in leadership, Queen is a Youth Advisory Councilmember for PeaceJam, a program in which Nobel Peace Prize Laureates mentor youth to change the world. Through this program, she co-founded an initiative that raised $10,000 for girls’ job training in Ghana.
Ethan Chiu; Syosset High School; Syosset, NY
Ethan Chiu believes in the power of young people to change the world. That’s why he founded Next Generation Diplomacy, a nonprofit aimed at transforming the world through youth-oriented cooperation on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With hundreds of members worldwide, the organization works to end poverty and protect the environment, especially the fundamental right to clean water. Ethan is also the president of the Syosset Red Cross Club, and he is the Resources and Social Media Lead for the American Red Cross National Youth Council, creating resources for over 125,000 volunteers. Ethan has served as an intern for state legislator Josh Lafazan and he’s worked as a research assistant at Mt. Sinai, exploring uveal melanoma treatments. He looks forward to working in medicine and advocating for policies to make healthcare more accessible and comprehensive.
Evanna Dominic; Blue Valley Southwest High School; Overland Park, KS
Promoting body positivity, spreading kindness, ensuring safe driving, and pursuing a career in medicine are just a few of Evanna Dominic’s many interests when it comes to serving others. As president of the ReBEl club, a nonprofit that encourages self-love and promotes gender equality, she advocates for seeing the beauty in everyone. She is also a member of the club, “Seatbelts Are for Everyone” or S.A.F.E., for which she has conducted surveys at her school on seat belt usage and assisted in planning lessons on the dangers of distracted driving. And as an executive member of Sources of Strength, a universal suicide prevention program, she has been trained in how students can look out for their peers and help them find resources if they are at risk for suicide. Evanna is a member of Math National Honor Society, and she has spent considerable time learning about the practice of medicine, which directly aligns with her passion for service. Evanna has shadowed a pediatrician, an orthopedic trauma surgeon, and a cardiologist, among others. She hopes to become a physician.
Lia Haile; Lincoln High School; Manitowoc, WI
Lia Haile founded her first service club, My Hopeful Hearts, when she was nine years old to benefit the children at her community’s homeless shelter. When the shelter outgrew its space in 2017, Lia launched the Hope House Capital Campaign to fund a new place that would allow families to stay in a safe, stable environment. That year, she wrote letters to organizations and politicians for donations, held fundraisers, and gave 37 speeches, ultimately raising more than $700,000. Lia also founded Backpack Buddies to serve Manitowoc’s foster care program and Learning with Heart to provide free STEM summer school classes to underserved children. Lia is president of the Mayor’s Youth Action Council, vice president of Key Club, historian of her school’s NHS chapter, project coordinator of KAN Cool, Inc., an advisory board member at Southfield Learning Center, a graduate of the Manitowoc Chamber Leadership program, and Lincoln High School’s very first Carson Scholar. Lia also works at Pinecrest Historical Museum, where she is the youngest person to ever hold a supervisor position.
Caroline Holtman; Wall High School; Wall, TX
Caroline Holtman has leveraged the strength of her local 4-H club to make a difference in her community. She has served as the president and vice president of the Tom Green County 4-H Council and helped raise awareness of the benefits of 4-H with events and activities, such as clover art projects for children at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. In her capacity as a 4-H officer, she has worked to save lives in her community by educating parents about how they can combat teenage vaping in their own families and beyond. She also volunteered with the San Angelo Meals for the Elderly, giving presentations and encouraging donations to provide fresh food to seniors in need. And Caroline herself has collected food. In the last two years, she amassed almost 4,000 pounds for her local food bank.
Evan Hsiang; W. B. Ray High School; Corpus Christi, TX
Evan Hsiang gives new meaning to the phrase “well-rounded individual.” A running enthusiast, a passionate pianist, and president of the Science Club at his school, Evan is committed to leadership and service for the good of his community. In Corpus Christi, he engages in fundraising opportunities for a variety of nonprofits, plays piano for residents at a home for the elderly, volunteers at a local food bank, and still manages to find time to tutor peers in math, biology, chemistry, and physics. A top speech and debate student, Evan has shown an interest in public health and public policy. For instance, he has volunteered at the Corpus Christi Urology Group and Cancer Center, where he created a research project, “Operation Tinkle,” that incorporated sound therapy to help cancer patients having difficulty with urinary flow.
Addie Jones; Harrison High School; Harrison, AR
Addie Jones is the founder of Bright Beginnings Books, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the love of reading by giving free books to children. Addie got her start fundraising at garage sales and holding book giveaways out of the back of her mom’s car. Since then, her organization has distributed over 55,000 books to children across the country and abroad. In her home state of Arkansas, she has developed numerous local and state partnerships, working with groups such as the Arkansas State Police to distribute books in police cars as a means of comforting children in crisis situations. Her passion for her school and community is apparent in her numerous leadership positions: vice-president of the Arkansas Association of Student Councils, president of Junior Auxiliary Crown Club, and board member of the Boone County Imagination Library.
Paridhi Latawa; Liberal Arts and Science Academy; Austin, TX
In middle school, Paridhi accompanied volunteers to lead mentorship sessions at Title I elementary schools, where she witnessed how a small amount of support beyond classroom learning could spark curiosity and a lifelong passion for STEM learning for motivated but underserved students. This realization inspired her to create SparkED, a nonprofit focused on increasing education equity and scientific literacy in underprivileged communities. Paridhi has led SparkED to equip more than 2,000 young people in 11 countries with $50,000 worth of free STEM resources. In addition to her work with SparkED, Paridhi advocates for other causes important to her, including reducing preventable disease and advocating for gun control.
Norah Laughter; Greenwood High School; Bowling Green, KY
A co-leader of the Kentucky Student Voice Team, Norah Laughter is a fierce advocate for ensuring students are represented in decision-making processes. When the state’s schools received their stimulus funds, Norah conducted peer interviews and intensive research to understand students’ perspectives and communicate them to administrators. She also co-wrote, “The Co-Creation Generation,” a case study focused on translating students’ powerful insights into concrete suggestions to increase civic engagement in intergenerational partnerships outside of school. She is involved in leadership positions throughout her school, serving as president of Science Club, editor-in-chief of the school’s literary magazine, secretary of her NHS chapter, and a student ambassador. As a member of the Science Club, Nora competes in Science Olympiad, Physics Olympics, and FTC Robotics. Nora has a passion for writing and graduated from the Governor’s School for the Arts in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry.
Kayla McFail; Harmony Science Academy; Carrollton, TX
After seeing how depression and mental health concerns impacted those close to her, Kayla was inspired to start a Dictation for Depression chapter at her school to support anyone in the community struggling with depression. Through this chapter, she has created a safe space for her peers to discuss the impact of depression and has raised awareness with the goal of reducing suicides in her community. Kayla also serves as vice president of the Help for Humanity organization, which advocates for issues relating to people of color, and works to find solutions and support for those involved. She is currently collecting funds to jumpstart a community wellness cabinet stocked with free food and essentials for those in need. Kayla serves as a mentor for third grade students, helping to improve the student’s literacy and reading proficiency. Kayla aspires to a career as a neurosurgeon, crediting the pillars of NHS for her growth. Kayla is the vice president of her student council, a Girl Scout Ambassador, and a volunteer at a senior community center and library.
Kaci Mundorf; Mercy Academy; Louisville, KY
Kaci Mundorf is the founder of Ninas de Jesus (NDJ), a charitable organization that raises money and collects items for Pasitos De Jesus, a girls orphanage in the Dominican Republic. After she visited the orphanage when she was 11 years old, she decided to start NDJ to help young girls like herself have a better life. In the years since, NDJ has grown in part because of a joint fundraising effort with the University of Louisville Baseball Team. Ever the charitable entrepreneur, Kaci also launched Give PROPS (Positive Reinforcement of Personal Strengths), an initiative to provide awareness for improving self confidence and self-esteem in young women. Through this initiative, she’s hosted in-person events and harnessed the power of social media to share messages of self-worth to clubs and classes at her high school. Kaci also serves as secretary of her student council and has supported breast cancer awareness and suicide prevention by participating in races and fundraising events.
Pooja Muthuraj; Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School; Richmond, VA
When Pooja Muthuraj learned about how some girls lack access to menstrual hygiene products, she established a local chapter of PERIOD, an international organization dedicated to ending period poverty and stigma around the world. Through this organization, Pooja and other students lobbied for two statewide bills mandating that public schools provide free period products in their restrooms, and both bills passed in March 2020. Pooja also co-founded her own nonprofit, Teen Polytx, which seeks to bridge divides between high school students from different sides of the political aisle by fostering communication and encouraging conversations about pressing societal issues. Through this group, she moderates monthly discussions open to high school students from across the state, and the organization has connected over 60 high school students through meaningful discourse.
Evan Osgood; Loveland High School; Loveland, OH
During the pandemic, Evan Osgood’s twin passions for technology and helping others inspired him to start not just one nonprofit but two. After teaching himself how to make masks in accordance with CDC guidelines, Evan established SOSforPPE, a nonprofit through which he makes and ships PPE assembly kits to those interested in making masks. In addition to filling a need for protective equipment, he has also sought to address COVID learning gaps in STEM subjects. That’s why he started STEMsForYouth, a nonprofit committed to improving access to STEM and narrowing the digital divide. Evan has met with senators, representatives, and government officials to discuss increasing access to STEM education. But he has done more than just talk. He has also taught students from low-income families the computer programming skills and engineering concepts they need to build their knowledge of STEM subjects.
Swetha Pendela; South Forsyth High School; Cumming, GA
When Swetha sees a way to make a difference, she takes action. She has initiated the start of four different chapters of national nonprofits in her community, including Make-A-Wish Georgia, Tutoring for A Difference, Words of Thanks, and The Urban Garden Initiative. With Make-A-Wish, she plans to continue her service from whichever college she attends, by advising the chapter on how best to grant wishes for children in need. Swetha continually seeks out service and leadership opportunities, and serves as the president of her school’s Key Club, Beta Club, and UNICEF chapter.
Celie Rayburn; Oxford High School; Oxford, MS
Celie Rayburn founded an organization, Chargers Helping Chargers (CHC), at her high school. Her goal is to help students become civic-minded by encouraging peers to serve their community. CHC has fundraised for many local initiatives, such as helping a family who moved to her town after their evacuation from a hurricane in which they lost all of their belongings. Celie is also a peer health educator for “Reach. Inspire. Support. Empower.” (R.I.S.E.), a peer-to-peer wellness education initiative committed to the overall well-being of the Oxford School District community, particularly high school freshmen. When she’s not working on service projects with her peers, Celie serves as the captain of her tennis team, the president of Junior Auxiliary Crown Club, a volunteer at an assisted living home for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and a board member of the Oxford University United Methodist Youth Council.
Ethan Sandoval; La Salle High School; Pasadena, CA
Ethan Sandoval lives and breathes one NHS pillar in particular: character. A few years before he earned a Presidential Merit Scholarship to attend La Salle High School, a private high school in Pasadena, CA, he was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and endured almost four years of life-saving treatments, which left him with a permanent physical disability of foot drop. For two years, he has served as an officer of the Key Club. He was inspired to join because of the club’s fundraising work for a cause that’s close to his heart: the Pediatric Trauma Program. This year, he was nominated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year Program. Ethan has channeled his resiliency and strong character into taking advantage of academic opportunities available to him. 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. Ethan is also the co-captain of his school’s Robotics Club, a Patrol Leader in Boy Scouts, and the founder of his school’s American Red Cross Club.
Hannah Shin; North Allegheny Senior High School; Wexford, PA
Hannah Shin’s commitment to senior citizens and to people with disabilities knows no bounds. Her devotion to her Korean grandmother, “Halmoni,” has inspired her work with the elderly. She has coordinated programming at the Pittsburgh Korean Senior Center for elderly immigrants. And she has played the flute for her church’s fundraising concert in support of the Eugene Bell Foundation, which provides medical aid to tuberculosis patients in North Korea. Hannah is also the sole high school student on the Community Advisory Board to support Carnegie Mellon University faculty and students in designing accessible and autonomous vehicles for individuals with disabilities. And she volunteers with the Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh, where she helps people with intellectual disabilities. Hannah also tutors children from low-income families and English-language learners. Somehow, she has found time to revive her school’s dormant Science National Honor Society chapter, of which she is president.
Alyssa Speelman; St. Labre Indian Catholic High School; Ashland, MT
Alyssa Speelman dedicates much of her time to serving others in her community. She volunteers to help the elderly and fundraise for charities, and she serves as the captain of her school’s volleyball team. Through her work with Braves Ink, a student-run organization that creates clothing items for local schools, towns, and sports, Alyssa, along with her Braves Ink classmates, led efforts to design a shirt that brings awareness to the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), with all proceeds donated to assist victims’ families. One project especially close to her heart is the making of casket covers. As COVID-19 took many lives in her community, Alyssa made these covers for grieving families to place them on the caskets of their loved ones. Each cover is designed to reflect the deceased’s personality, including artwork of things they loved or their Native names, and to honor their life and help their families heal.
Olivia Turman; Cabell Midland High School; Ona, WV
Olivia Turman tirelessly advocates for those in need. She helped draft and lobby for a West Virginia state bill that requires schools to have a “share table,” where students can leave unopened food for kids in need instead of throwing it away. Because of her efforts, she was invited to attend the bill signing ceremony when it passed. Olivia also raises money for her local Lions Club, which many people rely on for assistance. One of her favorite fundraisers is organizing volunteers to make and sell homemade apple butter. She also generates resources for civic projects, food banks, and her school’s Science Olympiad team. Each summer Olivia leads a Vacation Bible School preschool class, helping students stay safe while having fun. She volunteers for her community’s Special Olympics program, serves as a math tutor, distributes food for those in need, and she recently planned and created a mile long hiking trail for the visually impaired. As president of her NHS chapter, Olivia provides her members with service opportunities including 5k-races, charitable kickball tournaments, and working with the volunteer fire department, even though her chapter currently lacks a teacher adviser.
Emma Ventresca; North Catholic High School; Pittsburgh, PA
Emma Ventresca is the founder of Defendámonos, a nonprofit devoted to providing free, bilingual self-defense education. She has combined her Latina heritage with her passion and expertise in Taekwondo—she’s a black belt and a Sa-Ba-Nim (master instructor)!—to provide her community with the opportunity to learn self-defense skills while embracing their culture. She is also head of her school’s Mock Trial defense counsel and captain of the Drama Club, serving as a lead actress, choreographer, and dance instructor. During quarantine in March 2020, she made a short film that included interviews with 20 young adults discussing ways to take a stand for racial justice. Her film, “Our Generation,” was one of 10 films nominated for “Best Quarantine Diaries” in the All American High School Film Festival.
Stephanie Wang; Seven Lakes High School; Katy, TX
Stephanie is the co-founder of Kid Teach Kid, a nonprofit organization with a mission to “build a free online learning platform that provides high quality academic classes and learning opportunities to all students (K-12), taught by their high achieving peers.” Her interest in STEM-related subjects – with a special interest in epidemiology – has influenced most of her service and advocacy efforts, including the founding of Project Unmasked, a national public health education campaign to combat misinformation. Stephanie also co-founded the Houston chapter of INTEGIRLS, a national nonprofit promoting female/nonbinary student representation in mathematics through contests and other educational opportunities. Among Stephanie’s many other notable achievements is writing an epidemiology textbook.
Avia Webber; Saucon Valley Senior High School; Hellertown, PA
Avia Webber’s own experience with adoption has motivated her to help other children who have been adopted or are currently seeking families to adopt them. She is the founder of The Made of More Project, a nonprofit which runs service projects and offers educational resources for youth in need of adoption across the globe. Avia also serves as president of the Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (SPIRIT) Council, which creates fundraisers for local community organizations. And she led the creation of Diversity Week, which enables students at her school to learn about the various cultures in their community. She has raised tens of thousands of dollars for causes including battling cancer, funding hospitals, and supporting families in need.
Jaxon Wicks; Hilldale High School; Muskogee, OK
Jaxon Wicks is committed to making a difference in his community. He has volunteered on a mayoral campaign in the city of Muskogee and participated in initiatives to increase education budgets and teacher salaries and promote youth involvement in local government. Currently, he serves as an intern in the mayor’s office. By volunteering at his church, Jaxon has developed relationships with the church’s youngest members and serves as a role model for them. Jaxon also serves on the board of a nonprofit that helps children in the foster system, and he volunteers with youth from area churches to fix the homes of the underprivileged for free.
Owen Zhang; Bellaire High School; Bellaire, TX
When Owen Zhang was five years old, he lived through the 2009 Urumqi riots in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. After coming to the United States, he drew from his experience witnessing discrimination and human rights violations to create a nonprofit, Project Lights, Camera, Action, which promotes educational opportunities for Uyghur children and raises awareness about their plight. So far, the organization has donated $9,000 and more than 90 cameras to help Uyghur children document their struggles for the world to see. Owen’s activism does not stop there; he spends much of his time advocating for other causes he is passionate about. He founded a second organization, iEngage, to inspire social responsibility in young people through camps focusing on project-based learning and volunteering.