Our school’s honor societies aren’t living up to their mission statements. Around 200 juniors and seniors received notifications this year that their GPA, at least a 3.6 weighted, qualified them to apply for National Honor Society membership, according to NHS sponsor Rebecca Murphy. By writing a couple paragraphs and volunteering for 20 hours, candidates are almost guaranteed to be accepted, barring any outstanding past difficulties with the faculty.
Believe it or not, these entry requirements are more rigorous than they have been in the past, and next year the minimum GPA will be raised to 3.5 unweighted. Even so, once accepted a NHS member needs to turn in only 20 volunteer hours a year and attend a few mandatory meetings while also behaving themselves in front of faculty members to maintain their membership.
While we applaud the stricter NHS entry requirements, we feel that East’s honor societies can do even better, especially in our foreign language honor societies, where acceptance revolves largely around a student’s grades with little to no consideration given to character or leadership.
The job of an honor society is to not only recognize students, but to make them better by ensuring that they live up to the society’s standards of good character and service. An honor student is someone that actively works to make his school and community better while also maintaining a high academic standing themselves. Not only should the members of these honor societies be true honor students — at least upon graduation — but their ability to lead and willingness to help should be put on display more frequently in community and school service projects. When asked what a member of German National Honor Society must do to maintain their membership, one senior GNHS member who asked to remain anonymous responded “you have to maintain good grades, and be able to scratch your left ear with your right hand.”
The 20 volunteer hours per year a NHS member must complete to maintain their membership is currently the most demanding at East when compared to our other honor societies such as SNHS and FNHS. That means that the best students East has to offer are required to spend less than 25 minutes a week each year of their membership helping in the community. A “Jersey Shores” episode is longer than that. Honor students are people that really want to make a difference in their community. Completing 20 volunteer hours does not show a strong desire to serve and thus our honor societies should require more service hours in their acceptance and graduation criteria. Just doubling the 20 hours to 40 would mean members are sacrificing barely 45 minutes of their week to plant trees or tutor freshmen. Understandably, these students may be busy with other activities. Even so, organizations like Youth Volunteer Corps. offer four-day summer service projects which would allow members to exceed their required service hours after only two projects.
In addition to being active in the community, honor society students should be leaders within our school. One of the requirements for being accepted into NHS is to demonstrate leadership in two activities. Once accepted, there is no requirement for a member to demonstrate leadership. Members of honor societies should be held accountable for actively participating as leaders in our school, as well as maintaining the integrity of an honor student.
Whether a college is impressed by a student’s white graduation cord is irrelevant. A successful honor society should developed their members into well-rounded and productive members of society. The service hours and leadership ability a student attains during membership in a productive honor society will influence a college admissions officer’s decision more than the number of honor designations on their résumé. Its great that we acknowledge our best students, but those acknowledgements lose their luster when our honor societies fail to do their job and the great potential these students show goes untapped.