Guest post by Natasha Schaefer, NHS adviser at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, CA.
When I opened my inbox to find an email from my vice principal, I was relieved that it wasn’t about an upset parent or other administrative tasks. Instead, it was calling for volunteers. Our National Honor Society (NHS) adviser had moved to another school, and the position needed to be filled. While I normally worked with lower-achieving students—a satisfying duty in its own right—I decided I wanted to get to know the kids on the other end of the spectrum.
Now, as an NHS adviser, I enjoy giving a reason for these students to work together outside of the classroom. Most of our service projects occur out of school, and they get to break away from their own small groups and work together toward a common goal. Projects include organized walks to raise money, a talent show to help families who have a parent with cancer, and fairs for local elementary schools.
One of our elementary schools has approximately 400 students living at or below the poverty level. To raise their spirits, provide guidance, and even give gifts, our chapter holds an event there during the holiday season. We act as “Santa’s helpers” for an entire day, leading them in arts and crafts and handing out presents. Watching these goal-oriented, hard-working NHS students show such compassion and leadership in their own community is so rewarding.
These kids are dedicated to inspiring others, but they’re also inspiring themselves. One of our members is missing both legs, yet he participates in every charity run or walk—and he finishes them. He doesn’t let his physical difference stop him from doing anything he wants, and that mindset spreads throughout the rest of the chapter.
We also work to involve our whole school in any project or activity we put together, whether on campus or off. It’s one of our biggest impacts. Our movie nights and our Santa’s helper day invites everyone, not just NHS members, to participate. These communal events allow those who are not in our chapter to see what we’re about, and it gives them something to strive for if they don’t already.
I highly recommend becoming an adviser at your school or starting a chapter if one doesn’t exist. To start, go see how another adviser leads and organizes his or her chapter for ideas, and read up on bylaws; the Adviser Resource Center can help you with this. Google Classroom and Remind are also good tools to use for communication with students.
The most important thing, though, is to advise—not direct. Allowing your students to learn how to lead themselves through activities, challenges, and solutions builds the foundation for them to be successful in their future careers. One of my students went on to be a dentist, another a pediatrician. I have a student studying physics at Berkeley, another became a graphic designer, and yet another is going to West Point next year.
I love working with this next generation of America’s leaders and watching them learn about themselves and about their passions. It’s an opportunity unlike any other, and it all started with an email.
Natasha Schaefer is an NHS adviser at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, CA.