My students fell in love with serving their local community and it made them part of something much bigger.
When the National Honor Society (NHS) adviser at my school retired after 15 years, she turned to me with the request that I lead her NHS students. She admitted it would take a ton of time and even more energy, but that it would be the most rewarding job of my life.
She was right.
I’m still an adviser for our chapter 11 years later, and I can say confidently that it’s the best part of my job. I love guiding students as they integrate community service into their lives. While it’s a big time commitment, especially for a group of students who are already so focused on academic success, they learn that helping those around them can have a butterfly effect across the world. They live in that mindset long after they graduate and strive to always meet the needs of their community, no matter how big or small.
For the past few years, our chapter has hosted a prom fashion show to raise money for a unanimously selected charity, and we donate every dollar of the proceeds. We recently did this to benefit Water.org, a nonprofit that strives to provide access to safe water and sanitation worldwide. The previous year we donated to Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization that distributes food and aid to those who are most vulnerable.
Our other service projects have included packaging more than 10,000 meals to send to Africa—but something unexpected and greater came out of that: We almost had to cancel the entire event because some of the food wasn’t acceptable. When the students realized this, they came together to find a solution and got the program back on track. Not only did they help people in need, but they learned not to give up when they hit a roadblock. It was amazing to see.
Some of the most inspiring projects we’ve done have been those that are close to home, and you could feel the connection that my students had to it. Our community was home to a young girl with cancer who passed away, and we raised funds for a children’s cancer foundation in her honor. Even closer to us was when one of our own members had brain cancer but managed to keep volunteering throughout her hospital stays and surgeries. She organized a toy drive that was wildly successful, and the toys were split between Toys for Tots and the children’s ward at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Both of these events were so powerful because they were personal, and it showed in the dedication and passion of our chapter.
This kind of local community service has created a reputation for us. People know they can turn to us for help, even if it’s as simple as shoveling snow. We lead by example, and it inspires younger kids to dream about joining NHS.
Our students learn so much about themselves through service projects, and they take these revelations with them all over the world as they grow into teachers, engineers, neuroscientists—you name it. As advisers of the National Honor Societies, we create a lifelong impact as we help students discover and refine their leadership skills for their professional and personal futures.
Amy-June Remy is an NHS adviser at Bellingham High School in Bellingham, MA.