“Our world faces too many challenges—and those challenges require every bit of potential our students possess to be developed and unleashed. NASSP recognizes that need and aims to help fulfill it.” With those words, Michael E. Allison, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), framed NASSP’s October 1 event announcing new programs and services from the National Honor Society (NHS) and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS).
Several guest speakers offered some perspective, including a representative of Get Schooled, an education nonprofit that recently asked students to name their top concerns. The responses are profound. More than three-quarters of students say that “education” and “paying for college” are, by far, their biggest concerns. Meanwhile, half of the respondents cite “jobs” and “the economy” as chief issues facing their generation.
These substantial statistics give credence to what’s behind the new NHS and NJHS programs and services. NASSP is the parent organization of NHS and NJHS.
Marie Groark, executive director of the Get Schooled Foundation, told attendees, “The National Honor Society has a significant role to play in ensuring this generation, the most diverse in our nation’s history, is prepared to take on the challenges of the world.”
The new NHS and NJHS programs and services support student members with college preparation and readiness. In November, the first of three college admission planning webinars this year, exclusively for NHS and NJHS members and their families, will take place. The webinar will feature representatives of public, private, and highly selective colleges fielding questions about college admission and the application process. Following each webinar, students and parents can engage in further conversations with the webinar presenters via a Twitter Town Hall using a designated hashtag.
To address student concern about “paying for college,” NHS and NJHS are responding. The prestigious NHS Scholarship will double its total funding disbursement to $500,000 for the 2015-16 academic year. Over the next four years, the pool will increase to a total of up to $2 million in awards, annually.
NHS students will also be able to access a scholarship search tool customized for Honor Society students, offering prefiltered results aligned to the pillars of Honor Society membership: scholarship, service, leadership, and character.
Awareness of college financial aid options also needs to happen earlier in a student’s life, according to Dr. Sandy Baum, of the Urban Institute. At the announcement event, she explained, “Going to college may be expensive, but it may not be if you get all the financial aid for which you are eligible.”
To encourage middle level students to begin their college financial planning at a younger age, NASSP announced the introduction of the NJHS Outstanding Achievement Award. Each year, 500 exceptional NJHS members will receive $500 to be placed in a college savings account. These accounts are managed in partnership with Oppenheimer Funds.
Ms. Groark added, “Our nation, our communities, and our homes need more leaders. … We asked students what would help them become a better leader. They told us three things: Give us more opportunities to lead. Encourage us to have the courage to take a stand. And help us believe that one person can really make a difference.”
NASSP also announced the launch of State Summits, one-day workshops aimed at student empowerment and leadership development. During the summit, students will work in teams to develop an action plan or recommendation they can take back to their chapter on a key issue, such as civic responsibility, cyberbullying, or environmental issues. The first State Summit is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2016.
NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti shared with attendees, “In a recent poll of students by the Gallup organization, only 55 percent of students describe themselves as ‘engaged in school.’ That number gets worse as students get older. The National Honor Society exists to increase that engagement; to recognize and amplify student voice; to empower students to direct their own education rather than allow education to be something that ‘happens to them’; and ultimately to unlock the collective genius of students so they can continue to build a better world.”
View a video recap of the new Honor Society programs and services here.