In today’s fast paced world, and with competition for a spot at top colleges on the rise, it is never too soon to start on the path to, not only academic achievement, but a strong academic resume showing a history of initiative and leadership qualities. Despite the rise in college attendance,the job market competition remains fierce, and many young people find themselves with a college degree but few job opportunities in their chosen field. Companies are looking for strong leadership and employees who can help take their business to the next level.
The National Junior Honor Society was founded in 1929, following the creation of the National Honor Society for High Schools students eight years earlier, to recognize outstanding middle school students. The program is designed to recognize and encourage not only outstanding academic accomplishments, but accomplishments in the areas of leadership, service, citizenship, and character. This five-prong assessment seeks out those students who possess these foundational qualities so as to provide, through the National Junior and National Honor Societies, an environment conducive to nurturing and developing these qualities for future success.
The official NJHS website sets forth the requirements for founding a chapter at individual schools. To participate in National Junior Honor Society, each school must apply to begin a National Junior Honor Society chapter. Students who wish to participate in the National Junior Honor Society can search on the official NJHS webpage to see if their school is a participating chapter of the National Junior Honor Society.
Unfortunately, neither students nor parents are eligible to start a chapter, but interested students can get the ball rolling by contacting their school principal and/or emailing him/her a link to the NJHS website page, which has links to information about the Society, the constitution, which outlines expectations for a participating chapter, and an application to get started. Requirements include adherence to the National Junior Honor Society Constitution, appointment of a faculty advisor and a five member faculty council. Principals are required to be somewhat involved in the process and hold approval rights for activities and are tasked with appointing involved faculty. More is not required, but encouraged for the purpose of strengthening the chapter itself.
Today’s Honor Society
More than one million students throughout the United States, Canada, and 70 countries around the world are active members of the Honor Societies. Beyond maintaining academic excellence and upholding the values of the NJHS, members are actively involved in projects to benefit their school and the surrounding community. Individual chapters have individual guidelines and requirements for members as well.
NJHS members are leaders in their school community and are actively involved in instituting and participating in programs within the school to promote and help others attain academic excellence. NJHS members participate in tutoring programs within their schools, and may organize other types of activities to help others with preparations for state testing and school exams. They sponsor, recruit for, and participate in academic focused clubs, such as those for math and reading.
National Junior Honor Society Activities
NJHS members participate in community service and fund raising for charities. Events include things like canned food drives, coats and blankets for the homeless, car washes, and spaghetti dinners. One NJHS group in the mid-west hosted a haunted house to raise money for Christmas gifts for less fortunate families in the community, while another in a good citizenship program planted trees for Arbor Day and spent volunteer hours to care for them after planting.
Each chapter usually has established activities and fund raisers, although additional ones can and are planned and conducted by members. For example, one middle school hosts a Back to School Dance, assists parents during Open House and Parent-Teacher Conferences, hosts bake sales, fund raisers for scholarships, and several other volunteer activities.
National Junior Honor Society requires a certain number of community service hours, some prior to being considered for membership. Projects include raising money for Ronald McDonald House, serving at soup kitchens, visiting nursing home residents, recycling projects, and many others. This teaches students the value of working to benefit others. In addition, it builds self esteem and pride in something beyond themselves.
National Junior Honor Society Requirements
Induction in the National Junior Honor Society is for 6th graders who have completed at least one semester, 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. A grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is required for membership, although individual chapters are allowed to raise the requirement. For example, one middle school’s criteria for GPA, as posted on their website, are 3.6, while another requires 3.8. One benefit, and sometimes reason for, raising the GPA bar is to lower member to advisor ratios. Another is to increase the prestige of membership and encourage students to work harder to achieve the goal of membership. Inspiration to work harder, far from being excluding, is a valuable skill. Commitment to work harder teaches perseverance. Other things NJHS advisors and panelists look for in a potential member is initiative in serving others, whether in a school setting or in the community, in a volunteer setting, meaning acts of service that are unpaid or otherwise compensated and are done with a charitable spirit.
Potential members are leaders with take-charge attitudes when it comes to challenges, whether in a school setting or in the community. Future NJHS members willingly take on leadership roles in problem solving, promoting school or community activities, have a positive attitude when faced with obstacles, and can motivate others to work together to overcome those obstacles. Along with knowing how to be in leadership, it is important to also know how to work as a team member under another’s leadership. Another area in which potential members will excel is character. A future member will have good moral values, be honest and dependable, respectful of others, courteous, and cooperative.
Working towards a Goal
A worthy goal breeds initiative. National Junior Honor Society encourages aspiration. There are many well-rounded students, excelling far beyond their GPA. NJHS is a program that not only offers recognition for going above and beyond, but also a place where students can be challenged to go farther and to see their efforts pay off. Although there is some question as to whether a national honor program is necessary or effective at a middle school level, middle school educators know that there are many hard working, conscientious, civic minded students at this level with potential to reach even greater heights in their school career if given a goal to reach for.
National Junior Honor Society is a place that allows the gathering of like-minded individuals in an atmosphere of commitment to excellence, both in their peers and advisors, where they can spur each other on to greater achievements. A head start in life is a good thing, so it stands to reason the bigger the head start, the better the advantage.
Studies show that schools that offer a broad range of clubs and activities consistently rank higher in standards of excellence than those who do not. School administrators know that not all students can or will excel at sports-based activities. Middle schools represent students of all interests and abilities, with unique qualities, goals, and strengths. For everyone to excel, everyone must have a place to shine.
NJHS encourages students to branch out from areas of traditional instruction and explore beyond the classroom what makes a well rounded person. Naturally, academics are an important part of NJHS values, but the Societies also recognize that to be a productive part of society as a whole takes efforts in the other key areas of citizenship, leadership, service, and character. The structure of the NJHS program at each school allows flexibility to tailor programs and activities to the specific area needs, student interests, and available resources. The guidelines within the NJHS Constitution must be met, but beyond that there is a lot of freedom for each school to structure its own chapter.
National Junior Honor Society goes beyond the doors of the school building into the community of parents and friends. The Society builds a team of involved faculty, parents, and friends. Nomination and selection of new members involves the entire faculty, as information about prospective members is gathered and input from the faculty is requested to round out the picture of students considered for membership. The induction ceremony is intended to recognize and honor new members in the presence of their family and friends as a time to celebrate achievement and the next chapter for success.
NJHS is but one program that helps to broaden involvement in middle schools. Middle schools should seek to implement other programs recognizing excellence in other areas and get students involved. NJHS members can be a very active part in this, from the suggesting of types of clubs or programs, to mentoring other students to become involved. The goal of NJHS is to instill in students the value of serving others; therefore, the program’s primary focus, while allowing recognition for student excellence, is on community involvement. This is as program to teach the responsibility to be a force for good in the world, not to set members apart as the elite, but to show that those who are able to help, have a responsibility to do so, and that help extended brings another kind of reward.
Awards and Rewards
Although awards are not the primary focus of the Societies, the Societies feel that recognition, sometimes in the form of awards, is merited by the hard work and dedication of the students and faculty members of each chapter. To that end, within the NHS and NJHS there are three categories of awards – the Outstanding Service Project Award, the Edward Rynearson Award, and the Kyker State Service Project Award. In keeping with the NJHS focus and purpose, awards are geared to recognize projects to benefit others and those who dedicate their time to the furtherance of student excellence.
Outstanding Service Project Award
Since its inception in 1994, the Outstanding Service Project Award has recognized the NJHS chapters that have contributed significantly in their local communities. Each year, in late spring, five service projects from both the NHS (National Honor Society) and NJHS are recognized with Outstanding Service Project Awards. Each chapter seeking to compete for the award must submit an application in January for consideration.
Due to the varied types of projects, since each school designs and administers its own projects, the committee has developed, not only a detailed submission process with guidelines relating to application deadline, affiliation requirements, and timeline requirements, but also a process for detailing and reporting on projects from inception to completion, including planning, organizing, and implementing the various phases, and evaluating expected versus actual outcomes. As befitting an academic excellence program, submissions are also evaluated on the presentation of the project in the written report. Clarity and conciseness is expected and judged.
Projects are widely varied and past winners include such diverse projects as, in 2013, Chatham Middle School in Shelbyville, KY for their Senior Citizen Holiday Luncheon and Celebration which is a celebration of music, games and crafts as the students mingle with the guests for a time of breaking bread together, talking to, and learning from each other. The senior community turns out in full force for this event each year. This project brings together widely spaced age groups together to the enrichment of all.
Nolan Middle School in Bradenton, FL hosted a haunted house with proceeds going to The American Cancer Society. $2,000 was raised and a good time had by all, with haunted hallways, a monster make-up station, and mini games. 2014 winners include Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg, FL’s Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, which is an established program administered by the family court and uses the acronym SAFE.
Stuffed animals are distributed to children by county judges during custody and other court proceedings and at adoption ceremonies. Northside’s chapter members organized a drive within the school to collect gently used stuffed animals. Donations were open to classes from pre-school through 12th grade, and the goal was to collect 1,000, which they exceeded by 625.
So, as you can see, projects can be tailored to anything the members feel is a community need that matches their interests and skill set. This teaches the value of service within the bounds of the capabilities of the individual. Everyone has a contribution to make.
Edward Rynearson Award
This award honors NJHS advisors for excellence in performing their duties and their commitment to their students and chapter as demonstrated by the successes of chapter projects. Advisors can be nominated by their school’s principal or the official state NJHS association.
This award was created to honor those who give their time, energy, and commitment over and above their regular teaching and faculty duties. The award is named for Edward Rynearson, one of the original members of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the founder of, first the National Honor Society, and later the National Junior Honor Society, in 1921 and 1929 respectively, to honor his important work in establishing the Societies to benefit students around the world.
Kyker State Service Project Award
Named in honor of Ardis Kyker, The Kyker State Service Project Award recognizes one State Honor Society Association for an outstanding state service project during the preceding year. Winnersare chosen by committee appointed by the Societies national office. Kyker is a previous executive director of the Minnesota NHS association who, for 20 years served passionately and loyally,
coordinating the activities and duties of the state association.
What Will You Do?
The National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society are an open door of opportunity for students to develop a strong community service ethic, to go beyond the borders of their school community into the community at large and make a difference. Students have the chance to motivate and help their peers, create and implement programs within the school to provide greater benefits and avenues of involvement to current and future students, and to have their voice heard within the faculty and staff.
NJHS recognizes and rewards hard work and initiative, and, through their faculty advisor and other faculty members, learning to expand their goals and hone their academic and service skills. By taking on a leadership role within the school and community, students learn values and issues beyond themselves, see and become involved in helping the less fortunate, and come to realize all they have been blessed with and be the catalyst for social change and for changing the way others think about social problems. They learn that no effort is too small, no idea too insignificant. They develop confidence and pride in their own abilities while learning to appreciate, look to, and help further the abilities of others.
They build trust within their chapter by working together and being willing to go the extra mile. They are examples to others – students, parents, and friends alike – of the importance of service, character, scholarship, leadership, and good citizenship. Shape your world today to shape your future world tomorrow.