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NHS causes student concern

Kayleigh Padar examines NHS's impact on students in this article excerpted in the newspaper's March 10, 2017 issue

A+student+completes+a+purchase+at+NHS%27s+Wednesday+bake+sale.
A student completes a purchase at NHS's Wednesday bake sale.

A student completes a purchase at NHS's Wednesday bake sale.

Katherine Wiemold

Katherine Wiemold

A student completes a purchase at NHS's Wednesday bake sale.

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While NHS has always been a prominent organization, recently questions have arisen about the the group’s actual value to students.

The sponsors of the group, Joannell Hoijer and Chris Kiepura believe that the goal of the organization is to help students learn about the value of community service through accountability and rigor. However, some members of the group disagree. Many activities are provided for students on the Schoology page that all members gain access to at the beginning of the year. Some of these activities include running different clubs’ events and volunteering at community libraries. Another example included NHS students spending time working in a rented movie theater for a student-made film.

Some students believe that the events offered for points aren’t beneficial to the community as a whole. “I feel like a lot of the authorized activities are not really community service,” junior Chris Jones said, in reference to his service at the Chicagoland Showcase.

This seems to be a belief many students have, because to date only four of the 234 members have achieved the required 16 points, although the final deadline is about a month and a half away. It is also true that two of the four senior officers have no points registered at all. It is worth stating that some of the point forms are backlogged and have not yet been recorded in the database.

In order to be inducted into the organization officially, juniors must complete 16 points of service throughout the course of the year. These points can be earned in a variety of ways, but only after school hours. “The spirit of NHS is to try to encourage students to do things outside of the school day on their own time,” Kiepura said.

Points are awarded per hour, however if a student works for an longer than three hours, they can not exceed three points for that particular activity. “I think that it’s weird we only get three points max for events in general,” junior Anna Mattner said.

Hoijer and Kiepura revised the point system when they took over the club because they felt as though students should be required to participate in a number of activities in order to earn membership. For example, if a student worked 8 hours and each coincided with a point, they could achieve the entire in-school requirement in one day. “We definitely did not want it [the point system] to be subjective,” Hoijer said.

The sponsors believe that the point system provides an opportunity for students to be well rounded through a number of activities, rather than choosing one activity and earning all the points in a few afternoons.

Another struggle students seem to be facing is what occurs at the monthly NHS meetings. The majority of NHS members do not attend these morning meetings, however some who do attend believe the time spent isn’t as productive as it could be. “Nothing gets pushed forward,” junior Damien Charczuk said.

For example, last year the group had multiple ideas tossed around for the group service product, but ended up falling back on a last minute plan. “Several ideas fell through due to lack of interest and initiative, the officers decided to fall back upon the idea of a bowling fundraiser, as was done several years earlier. At this point, time was short, and the NHS membership held only one bake sale and sought out very few donations from the community for the raffle,” Hoijer said.

This year, the student leadership has expanded in size, but senior Diana Matache, one of the 15 leaders, feels as though the amount of actual student involvement in decision making hasn’t increased. “We’re kind of there as assistants, you might say,” Matache said.

It isn’t as though the sponsors of the group are discouraging student involvement. “When we came in as sponsors we wanted it to be an organization of accountability and that you’re not doing this just to slap it on your resume. It had to mean something,” Hoijer said.

Despite original reforms, many students believe that these new regulations have not achieved what the sponsors intended. “We’re not doing this out of the goodness of our hearts, we are doing this because we want it on our college applications,” Mattner said.

In fact, some see the group as a sort of requirement for competitive application processes. “I feel like I’m inclined to do this to stay in line with other college candidates,” junior Casey Tran said.

Some students have found value in this organization, and although they seem to be in the minority this cannot be ignored. “Through my volunteer experience, I’ve been led to my career path,” NHS leader Jen Sheridan said.

It isn’t as though disinterested members are simply against volunteering. The organization is not the only one at our school which promotes giving back to the community. Many NHS members simultaneously participate in groups like SOS and Special Olympics, which provide community outreach as well and attempt to teach similar lessons about service. “The average Hersey student is a lot more good spirited about volunteering and about giving back to their community,” Kiepura said.

With reforms to the structure of the organization, it is possible that NHS member apathy and discontent will decrease.

Joshua Irvine contributed to this story.

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The Correspondent Live - The student news site of John Hersey High School
NHS causes student concern