The Whole World in Their Hands

When you think about the size of the entire globe, it might seem like a pretty vast piece of real estate. But if you ask thousands of students to consider how to seize one portion of it to claim as their own in order to change something for the common good, its size—and the endeavor—becomes much more manageable.

That’s exactly what’s happening now, as student members of NASC, NHS, NJHS, and the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) have banded together for a colossal student leadership initiative that runs through 2018.

With a focus on global citizenship, the initiative is the brainchild of National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) leadership and the NASSP Student Leadership Advisory Committee. This committee was created to develop ideas to enhance programs and services as well as to increase council and chapter engagement. NASSP is the parent organization of NHS, NJHS, and NASC, and it administers the National Elementary Honor Society in partnership with the NAESP Foundation.

This effort represents the first time these organizations have united in such a profound way with an initiative that aims to encourage all students to think globally and act locally.

Approximately 33,000 schools are affiliated with these organizations, and more than 1 million students are members of an NHS chapter or NASC student council. Thus, the initiative’s impact has the potential to be extraordinarily significant.

In November 2016, with all the fanfare of a giant party—think confetti and balloons—the initiative kicked off at a Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conference of student leaders and advisers in Denver, CO. During a Facebook Live event, hundreds of student leaders and advisers watched a giant screen showcasing real-time social media posts celebrating expressions of #MakingGlobalChange as the initiative’s official website, www.makingglobalchange.org, was unveiled.

Defining the Goal

For purposes of this initiative, global citizenship is defined as “a demonstrated awareness of, concern for, and involvement in the well-being and success of others beyond one’s immediate community, extending into the nation and the world.”

The initiative embraces five strands, and project examples have been shared to illustrate successful achievement:

Equity

Projects that engage or improve relations with varied and underserved populations.

Examples: Special Olympics, No Name-Calling Week, Best Buddies

Civic Engagement

Projects that raise awareness or engage in civic-based activities.

Examples: mock elections, voter registration drives, mayor for a day

Positive Social Change

Projects that raise awareness of or engage others in activities addressing identified social issues in the school and community.

Examples: drunk driving awareness, Random Acts of Kindness Week, culture fairs

Empathetic Actions and Wellness

Projects that assist people in need or crisis, or improve the environment.

Examples: clothing/food drives, care packages for vets/homeless, donations or drives for children’s hospitals

Awareness/Perspectives

Projects that raise awareness and perspectives or promote meaningful dialogue on identified school and community issues.

Examples: antibullying/smoking/drugs, blood drives, pause before you post

The Initiative’s Genesis

One thing to note about this campaign is that it is not only for students, but it is by students. Eight students sit on NASSP’s 15-member Student Leadership Advisory Committee, along with three principals, three advisers, and an NASSP board liaison. These individuals were among the decision makers at the table when the idea of a national initiative was proposed.

“Student voice is more powerful than ever because technology has made the world more connected,” explains Beverly Hutton, NASSP’s deputy executive director, who proposed the idea of undertaking an initiative to the committee. “Honor Society and NASC students are the next generation of leaders,” she notes. “Sparking and encouraging their social consciousness and civic engagement will result in a more inclusive global society, a more educated citizenry, and a more informed American voter.

“With regard to the initiative’s focus, Ann Postlewaite, NASSP’s director of student programs, explains, “The committee members believed the issue of global citizenship to be of significant importance when looking to change the climate and culture in schools. The theme’s five strands, they said, are critical issues for schools and students today.”

NASC student representative Kendall Haase from Bastrop, TX, says, “The initiative’s theme is especially relevant now because technology plays a huge role in global citizenship. The internet and social media give students the opportunity to connect with people around the world. This initiative will help ensure kids are using that power to enact positive change.”

This year’s National Student Leadership Week theme, “Making a World of Difference,” is meant to amplify the initiative’s message further. The week, being celebrated April 16–22, 2017, represents an annual salute to student leadership. During the week, councils and chapters are encouraged to recognize their student leaders and plan special projects based on the theme to show how student leaders are positively impacting their schools and communities.

Getting Involved in the Initiative

Project Implementation

This initiative relies heavily on students joining together to conceptualize and implement a project or activity that demonstrates how they are making global change based on one or more of the initiative’s strands.

The National Student Project Database—accessed through the NASC, NHS, NJHS, NEHS, or the initiative’s website—provides students and school representatives with thousands of project and activity ideas completed by Honor Society chapters and NASC councils. While any school may participate in this initiative, only schools affiliated with NASC, NHS, NJHS, or NEHS enjoy full access to the database’s contents. The database can also sort entries that have been tagged as a “global citizenship” activity.

Student Leadership Opportunities

Do you know a student who has a large following on his or her own YouTube channel or other social media platform? Is one of your student members a great writer? Then the initiative needs their talents!

Students are invited to promote the initiative as “global change ambassadors.” By publicizing the effort among friends and classmates in creative and impactful ways, students can earn a certificate and digital badge. For example, students who have an experience to share about an initiative-related project they’ve undertaken can contribute a blog post to be published on the initiative website. Advisers are also welcome to contribute to the blog.

To become a global change ambassador, advisers are asked to encourage their students to visit the “Get Involved” section of www.makingglobalchange.org, where they can complete a brief form and submit a photo of themselves.

A Chance to Give Back

The initiative also offers chapters and councils an opportunity to pay it forward through an Instagram contest running through December 2017. Each month, one Instagram post with #MakingGlobalChange illustrating how an individual or group is demonstrating global citizenship will be chosen to win $100 for a charity of choice. The prize will be awarded in the name of the chapter or council the individual represents.

Eyeing the Future

Service is one of the hallmarks of each of these student organizations. Involvement with the initiative gives students—especially those in the elementary and middle levels—a glimpse into Honor Society and student leadership opportunities that await them throughout their academic lives.

The big picture underscores the importance of membership in an Honor Society or student council relative to the overall student experience. “The data collected through this initiative will shed light on understanding student empowerment, leadership development, as well as the impact of NASSP student programs on learning environments and surrounding communities,” says Jonathan D. Mathis, director of the National Honor Societies. “The data will further help to inform stakeholders of the power, insight, and commitment of our student leaders.”

Committee Member/Adviser Felix Yerace from South Fayette High School in McDonald, PA, says, “I would hope that from this initiative, students are able to build empathy and understanding and also, begin a lifetime of giving back and improving their communities.”

Stephen Phraner from Athens, AL, an NHS student member and committee representative, offers this perspective, “I would love to see more servanthood in my generation as a result of this initiative. The topic of global citizenship can actually make a tangible difference in our society.”


Terry Lowe-Edwards is a senior copywriter with mdg, a full-service marketing agency specializing in solutions for association and event clients.