Everyday Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character
by Nara Lee
Whether or not your school has a chapter of the National Honor Society, I share this memo to illustrate the universality of National Honor Society values and how they can fit into each student’s educational journey, regardless of a student’s membership status.
No two educational journeys are the same. Some may look similar, but taking certain courses, course loads, participating in specific activities, and achieving coveted honors and prizes do not define values. While we believe in the value and power of recognition, the pillars of the National Honor Societies are not limited to student members alone. National recognition programs like the National Honor Society strive to place a much-needed emphasis and spotlight on whole-person growth in school settings.
National Honor Society membership is invitation-only and a specific honor. But Everyday Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character are shared values of schools, communities, and families.
Everyday Scholarship is a commitment to learning and growing on an educational path. It means making the most of the educational opportunities provided and seeking out learning, not only in school or similar settings, but also personally. Everyday Scholarship doesn’t require a minimum GPA—but it does require effort. More importantly, it stems from a desire to contribute to this world in a positive way by building on one’s own knowledge, skills, and talent through different experiences.
Everyday Service is seeking out and engaging in meaningful service, not simply doing acts of service to fulfill a school, district, or program requirement, or to collect hours. As Honor Society students, many young teens and young adults at local chapters are required to meet minimum service participation requirements.
Although hours are important, Everyday Service is seeing a need and fulfilling it voluntarily. Sometimes it’s driven by a passion for a specific cause or people in need. Other times, it’s driven by personal or family need, like taking care of siblings or other family members, or maybe even working part-time to help with family finances.
Everyday Leadership builds on Everyday Service. Service and leadership oftentimes look very similar. Everyday Leadership is carrying oneself with dignity and taking ownership and responsibility for one’s own actions and participation. Being a public speaker, playing quarterback, or having an official title is not required for Everyday Leadership. Everyday Leadership means being an agent—someone who takes action and responsibility—of your own pathway.
Everyday Character is valuing diverse cultures and building relationships that reflect love of self but also concern for others. There are endless attributes to good character: perseverance, respect, integrity, honesty, sacrifice—the list goes on. Good and noble character is a high calling. Oftentimes we don’t “see” character unless there is a public display of self-sacrifice, or more often, a very public mistake. Everyday Character is not about praiseworthy or blameworthy behavior but the personal commitment to ethical and compassionate decision making that affects oneself and others.
NHS thanks the following organizations and leadership for their input and support in creating Everyday Pillars: Making Caring Common (Harvard Graduate School of Education), Dr. Jonathan D. Mathis (former Director of the National Honor Societies), Dr. Andrea Elzy and Thrive Chicago, and our parent organization NASSP.