NEGAUNEE - Thirty or 40 years ago, students chosen to become members of the National Honor Society at Negaunee High School participated in a beautiful ceremony, lighting candles and speaking words about the organization's four core values: scholarship, service, leadership and character.
Each student received a National Honor Society pin and membership card as well.
And that was about it.
Marissa Symons, a Negaunee High student, poses with NHS senior and fellow National Honor Society member David Renaldi, a senior.
Negaunee High School National Honor Society members Luke Jacobson, Clara Churchill and Wyleen Kniola pose for a photo. Jacobson is a junior and will be the NHS National Honor Society chapter’s president next year. Churchill and Kniola are seniors. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
That certainly isn't the case today with the school's National Honor Society.
Negaunee's NHS adviser Sherri Holmgren explained.
"Students get invited by grade point average to apply to join," she said. "They will get an invitation in the summer before their junior year. They will fill out a form and write an essay about how they have shown the values of scholarship, service, leadership and character."
The National Honor Society is the nation's premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students. More than just an honor roll, NHS serves to honor those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. These characteristics have been associated with membership in the organization since its beginning in 1921.
Today, it is estimated that more than one million students participate in NHS activities. NHS chapters are found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many U.S. territories, and Canada. Chapter membership not only recognizes students for their accomplishments, but challenges them to develop further through active involvement in school activities and community service.
Those who join the honor society will then be required to complete 10 hours of community service. In addition to their service hours, the National Honor Society members must maintain a 3.25 GPA to stay in the organization.
"There are verification forms that must be signed for this service," Holmgren said. "It cannot be signed by a family member and it cannot be for something they are paid to do."
While they still have the beautiful induction ceremony, the National Honor Society members - there are 73 among the Negaunee High junior and senior classes this year - will spend much time working in the community at a wide range of volunteer opportunities.
Holmgren said she keeps a list of volunteer opportunities in her classroom for the students to choose from and she's contacted by other organizations in the community - like the Negaunee Lions Club, for example - when they need the help of the young volunteers.
"One of the big events the students help with is the Friendship Festival," she said. The Friendship Festival takes place annually as a special day for the young pupils at the Negaunee School District's Lakeview Elementary School.
"But they also so things like collecting for the TV6 Canathon," Holmgren said of the National Honor Society members. "They collect between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds of food that St. Vincent (de Paul) picks up here."
The National Honor Society students organize two blood drives each year, tutor, serve as ushers and work at concession stands, among their many volunteering choices.
So why do they want to join?
Senior Wyleen Kniola said she joined at the urging of her teachers.
"They told me that colleges look for that kind of thing," Kniola said. "They want people to be well rounded."
Clara Churchill, also a senior, joined for a particular reason.
"I think it's good to be part of community service," Churchill said. "It's a great thing to be able to help people."
Helping the community was also junior Luke Jacobson's reason for joining. As National Honor Society vice president this year, Jacobson will serve as the group's president in the 2014-15 school year.
"The favorite thing I've done so far in National Honor Society is the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon," he said. "We brought in food for the teachers. Four or five of us kids set things up, we served the lunch and we cleaned up. We did everything for it and it was really fun."
Both Kniola and Churchill named volunteering at the annual district's Fun Day as their favorite activity.
"Especially last year," Kniola said. "Being in the sing-a-long room seeing the little kids sing karaoke. That was so cute."
Fun Day is a Negaunee High tradition hosted by the sophomore class as a fundraiser. It takes place on a teacher professional development day. For $5, children can spend the day at NHS, with the older students offering a wide range of activities for them, room by room.
"That was my favorite, too," Churchill said. "For the same reason."
Churchill and Kniola, who graduate in June, both plan to enroll at Northern Michigan University next fall.
"I will probably be pre-med, so it's important for me to have this volunteer experience," Kniola said.
Churchill said, "I hope to do something in athletic training but really I am open to anything."
All three students agreed the National Honor Society volunteering requirement has been good for them. And they encourage other students to apply to join.
"For sure," Jacobson said. "It's something everyone should do."
Adviser Holmgren is in her second year working with Negaunee's chapter of National Honor Society. She is in her 13th year of teaching at the school.
"(Teacher) Helen Grossman, when she retired, said I should become the adviser. She had done it and really enjoyed it," Holmgren said. "It can be a lot of work organizing, but the kids are great."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.