No one could have foreseen our frightening circumstances, but having an NHS chapter made all the difference.
I have been a National Honor Society (NHS) adviser for three years. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I have been the sole adviser for that long—I had previously been co-advising our chapter with my wife for some time after the former advisers stepped down. In that time, we have grown to a 160-member group out of 2,100 students; we are one of the largest high schools in our semi-rural area. When disaster struck on April 20, 2018, we needed the support of all 160 members.
That Friday morning, our school had a pre-scheduled walkout to take part in the national protest against gun violence. Shortly before it began, there was a bang.
It was our worst fear realized; we had an active shooter.
The incident—the living nightmare—lasted only three minutes before the shooter was taken down, but not before one student was injured. Thankfully no one was killed, and the injured student would make a full recovery, but those three minutes were enough to change us forever.
No one felt safe anymore. To try to alleviate the fear that had spread throughout the school, I gathered my NHS chapter members and came up with a plan. The following Wednesday, we worked with SGA to set up an assembly where we invited the first responders to our campus to show our appreciation. Ten different agencies comprising 100 people showed up in support. The whole event was student led, and it reminded us how strong we were.
The next Friday, our chapter wanted the community to get involved. Once again partnering with SGA, they organized “Forest Friday” and had T-shirts made for every student in the school. The social media surrounding the event garnered worldwide attention.
The first Monday back, a lot of the students were afraid to come to school. In response, my NHS kids showed up early and provided much-needed support—I was so proud of them. Part of being an adviser is guiding these students in leadership skills, and seeing them put it into practice makes me see how much of these lessons sink in.
It’s clear what kind of impact NHS has on students, and what kind of people they are learning to become. Unsurprisingly, we had the most students ever join our chapter this year. Of course, the reasons extend beyond a situation like the one we had in April: We’ve increased our tutoring program, we hold fundraising events, and we’re even hosting the first-ever district summit next year for both NHS and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) chapters. It also gives students a voice, allowing them to not only see the changes that need to be made, but to speak up and actually do something about it.
Improvements keep happening at Forest High School, and our NHS chapter is behind them. I’m so glad we have the Honor Society on our campus—and it needs to be on yours.
Guest post by John Crawford, NHS adviser at Forest High School in Ocala, FL