Research has shown that when students give back to their community, it leads to significant positive effects on their academic performance, values, leadership, choice of a service career, and plans to participate in service after college.
Such findings would suggest that secondary school students who are members of the National Honor Society (NHS), National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), and the National Association of Student Councils (NASC) are well prepared for their future endeavors. These three student leadership organizations, which are administered by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), annually engage in service projects that result in a significant number of volunteer service hours and a substantial amount of dollars raised for charitable causes.
An annual survey of student program advisers, conducted and recently released by NASSP, reports the activity of 34,343 student groups representing NHS and NJHS chapters and NASC councils for the 2014-15 academic year. The report indicates that these students contributed more than 2.5 million hours of service to their communities and schools, engaging in activities including food and blood collection drives, tutoring programs, safety awareness campaigns, and fundraisers.
In terms of charitable giving, the survey indicates that more than $2.8 million had been raised by these students, with the top recipients of these funds being the American Cancer Society; food banks and soup kitchens; the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; the American Red Cross; the Make-A-Wish Foundation; Special Olympics; and children’s hospitals, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Honor Society chapters reported collecting, on average, more than 1,110 pounds of food each, while student councils averaged 2,506 pounds of food collected. In the past, some of the more creative approaches to food collection drives have included a “Can the Principal” campaign, soliciting donations to place in the principal’s office in an effort to elicit so many contributions that the principal is forced out of his or her office and into the hall.
School leaders have long held that student volunteerism is a catalyst for academic excellence. Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, IA, for example, explains, “The amount of volunteerism that our students do here is astronomical. I’m very proud of that.” Bettendorf High is home to both an NHS chapter and NASC council. He goes on to report that Advanced Placement class enrollment as well as ACT test scores are up, all reflections of the more student-centric environment that he and his staff have been crafting. That, he says, “is what’s impacting what’s happening in the classroom and why I believe we’re learning at higher levels now.”
NASSP’s Director of Student Programs Ann Postlewaite commented, “Student leaders, with the support of their advisers and principals, are making a difference for so many—and they are challenging others to make a difference as well. I commend student leaders for their hard work and caring.”