For National Honor Society members, it's more than grades
It took more than good grades for 43 new inductees to be selected for the regional high school's National Honor Society Chapter (NHS). In addition to scholastic achievement, the students stood out among their peers because of character, leadership, and service.
"All of these four qualities are important - it isn't just any one of them," said superintendent of public schools James Weiss. "You have to be a well-rounded person for induction into this group."
Thirteen seniors and 30 juniors were inducted into the NHS Chapter, which already included 57 senior class members, in a special ceremony held on December 9 in Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's Performing Arts Center.
Photo by Kim Baumhofer
Before the ceremony, students and their parents attended a welcoming reception in the high school's culinary arts dining room where they enjoyed a feast of delectable hors d'oeuvres prepared by culinary arts students and chef/instructor Jack O'Malley. Horticultural instructor John Wojtkielo and students prepared floral arrangements for the tables. The high school's string orchestra provided music, under the direction of teacher Michael Tinus.
Principal Stephen Nixon recalled this week that in his opening remarks at the induction ceremony, "I told the new members that this is the beginning in their life of accepting responsibility and promoting leadership and helping others - it's not the culmination of those efforts, but in fact the beginning."
NHS Chapter student officers who took part in the ceremony included co-presidents Maxwell Nunes and Alexia Schroeder, vice president Andrew McHugh, secretary Hilary Dreyer, and treasurer Emma Frizzell.
As part of the induction ceremony, Mr. Nunes, Ms. Dreyer, Mr. McHugh, and Ms. Frizzell each lit a candle representing one of the four tenets of the NHS - leadership, character, scholarship, and service - and gave a speech about it. Mr. Nunes chose leadership as his topic.
"It was kind of like preaching to the choir, because these are kids who know what leadership means," he said. "So I tried to thank them for all they've done - these are the kids teachers and other students go to when they need something done."
The high school's NHS Chapter is open to juniors and seniors. Juniors receive notice of their eligibility with their grades. Candidates for NHS nomination fill out an activity profile sheet and are evaluated by all of their teachers on the basis of leadership, character, and community involvement.
Final selections are made by the NHS Faculty Council, which this school year includes teachers Andrew Berry, Keith Dodge, Janice Frame, and Bill McGrath. The high school's guidance counselors, assistant principal Neal Weaver, and interim assistant principal Carlin Hart also served on the council.
The chapter's new advisor this year is Kim Baumhofer, who is now in her second year teaching early childhood education at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. She said she volunteered to work with the group because she belonged to the NHS in high school and remembers it as a worthwhile organization.
When asked about the Chapter's large number of recent inductees, Ms. Baumhofer said there is no limit. "It really depends on the quality of students that apply and what the faculty council decides on each person," she explained. "There are standards for application, and the teachers review the applications and do a yea or nay for each student."
Although the NHS requires a 3.5 grade point average for membership, the high school requires a 4.7 cumulative weighted academic index.
"We're on a 6.5 scale, so we had to come up with what we thought was equal to a 3.5 average," Mr. McCarthy explained. Beginning with the class of 2009 inductees, the academic requirement for NHS membership went up from 4.5 to 4.7, because of recent adjustments in how courses are weighted.
The high school's NHS candidates also must have an average grade of 90 in discipline for the previous year. Students must keep up their academic and discipline grades to remain NHS members.
Mr. McCarthy said that honor society membership definitely enhances a student's college portfolio. "Kids that are focused academically where they are meeting all the expectations in the classroom also realize they need to be involved in other things for their own personal growth," he noted. "Schools they're applying to will be looking at their leadership roles and their community involvement."
With induction into the Honor Society come responsibilities. Members are required to perform 10 hours of community service, attend once-a-month meetings, and participate in fundraising efforts, according to the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School student handbook.
"The National Honor Society is good, because it is something more than the honor roll or SAT scores," said Mr. Nixon. "It's not just about education, but also about service and interaction with the community. It's about developing leadership and formulating a person overall, not just their education. When you talk to the kids involved, the community service portion is an important component."
In talking with the NHS Chapter's co-presidents, Mr. Nunes said, "What I like about the organization is it puts an emphasis on both academic and community service and what you do for your school - an important balance."
Ms. Schroeder said she enjoys being a member of the NHS because it offers the opportunity to interact with a greater diversity of students than many high school clubs and organizations, which often are joined by groups of students who already are friends.
With its infusion of new members, the NHS Chapter met after school on Tuesday to brainstorm ideas for community service and fundraising projects. In a follow-up call to the co-presidents after the meeting, Mr. Nunes said the group voted unanimously to do a project in support of Camp Safe Haven, a program for young people whose lives are impacted by HIV/AIDS, which is operated at the Manter Memorial Youth Hostel in West Tisbury.
Ms. Schroeder said the NHS raised about $4,000 for Camp Safe Haven last year, and that the organization had asked for the students' support again. "It's nice to see a large group of kids can work together towards a project that will help our community or Island," she said. "The Safe Haven kids come here for a week in April, so we can see how our money helps someone."
Mr. Nunes said, "It's high school kids helping other kids. These are inner-city kids coming to our Island and we want to make them feel welcome."
The students plan to ask Camp Safe Haven organizers to suggest a goal sum of money to raise for a specific expense, Ms. Schroeder said.
Community service is a year-round effort for NHS members. Before the holidays, senior members organized a school food drive for donations to the Island Food Pantry. Over the next two weekends, some NHS members plan to work as volunteers building a Habitat for Humanity home in Edgartown.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals established the National Honor Society in 1921 to honor outstanding high school students. It is estimated more than one million students now participate in activities as members of the NHS and also the National Junior Honor Society for middle school students through chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many U.S. Territories, and Canada.