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An Insight Into the Induction of a New Wave of Leaders

Last night's ceremony proved to be another jewel in the crown of our high school.

The+National+Honor+Society+Induction+ceremony+was+held+in+our+HS+auditorium+on+Wednesday%2C+May+25th.+111+students+were+inducted.
The National Honor Society Induction ceremony was held in our HS auditorium on Wednesday, May 25th. 111 students were inducted.

The National Honor Society Induction ceremony was held in our HS auditorium on Wednesday, May 25th. 111 students were inducted.

Photo by Doreen Bullard

Photo by Doreen Bullard

The National Honor Society Induction ceremony was held in our HS auditorium on Wednesday, May 25th. 111 students were inducted.

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Scholarship. Service. Leadership. Character. These are all qualities not only embodied by the prestigious National Honor Society, but qualities representing the most prominent and influential individuals of today. Even without being part of NHS myself, it is easy to draw the parallel that the students of this society are to become the future leaders of tomorrow. With the recent induction ceremony, and the moving in of a new wave of student leaders, I took the opportunity to ask the question: What does National Honor Society and its members have in store for the world? Of course before I could delve deep into that query, there were several basics I had to cover. What exactly was the National Honor Society? Through a combination of online research and interviews with those involved in Patchogue-Medford’s very own NHS, I was able to gain a better understanding of this association.

As a premier organization since 1921, NHS has since founded thousands of chapters throughout the United States and Canada, recognizing distinguished students for their excellence in the previously mentioned areas of scholarship, service, leadership, and character. Besides given recognition of their amazing academic achievement and passion to serve their community, these students are challenged to further develop and involve themselves in pursuits of service.

In regards to Patchogue-Medford’s National Honor Society, its members are clearly astounding. To truly unveil students who have such potential, all prospective members must meet certain criteria as well as go through an application process. As I sat down with Ms. Sweda, advisor to our school’s NHS chapter for the past 6 years, she gave me a much clearer explanation of what traits she and the rest of the NHS looks for in an applicant. The first quality of course is scholarship. An applicant has to demonstrate their commitment to the “pursuit of knowledge” and their “diligence and passion to broaden their horizons” as stated by Jennifer Li, a current member of the NHS. So, any student in their junior year, with an overall average of 90 or above, is invited to complete an application which displays the other qualities sought for by this association.

While the scholarship portion is determined by a clear grade point average, the additional qualities of service, leadership, and character are more difficult to define. Therefore, a committee is used to review whether an applicant embodies these qualities. In regards to service, the NHS defines this trait as one with a person who always “interprets life through a selfless lense” and embraces the idea of service to others. With the National Honor Society being a community service organization, this trait is especially important. Students who have participated in volunteer activities in the past truly show their drive to help others without having any incentive for personal gain. Altruistic students like this are the ones who make service campaigns like the recent ALS Walk for Life possible, and even more, successful. They are willing to devote immense amounts of time and effort to make better not their own lives, but the lives of others.

When looking at a world of over seven billion people, it is very easy to just follow the crowd”, according to NHS member Joe Finn. Without a clear path of action, this crowd could easily veer right into chaos and anarchy. As optimists, we always like to think that everyone will do what is best for all, but in reality this is not feasible. This calls for “apparent leaders in society” whom will “direct their peers towards success at all costs”, says Joe. While holding past leadership positions in other extracurriculars may prove one’s ability to be a leader, I learned that this is not the only way. One does not necessarily have to be a president or vice-president of a club to be a leader. Anyone who is capable and willing to take responsibility onto their own shoulders demonstrates leadership and consequently earns the reverence of their associates. However, students are still greatly encouraged to take leadership positions within NHS, as they provide an amazing experience to learn from. When I talked with Mike Corso, current president of the Patchogue Medford NHS, he told me how his experience as president really gave him a new view of things. It gave him the rare opportunity to connect with the people and the community as a whole, as well as see how such groups operated. When being just a member of a crowd, the events happening around can often be blinding and distract one from the bigger picture. But as a leader, one can stand on the balcony, overlook the crowd, and see the broader view. As Mike recounted his own journey to becoming president, I was reminded that while obtaining a leadership position came with great benefits, this role was by no means easy to achieve. “Standing out was never something i really did, so I just took a leap”, he stated. And he encourages others to do the same. A quote that I personally always remember is “success lies behind the wall of fear.” One must be able to take the first step through their greatest trepidation before reaching their goal, because there is no other way around it.

“When looking at a world of over seven billion people, it is very easy to just follow the crowd””

— Joe Finn

The final and quite possibly the most intangible quality is character. How personal is a person’s personality (sorry I had to do that), and do they retain a moral compass? Kayla McGinnis, another of the many role models we have in our school, says that “regardless of your circumstances, the one thing you have complete control over is your character”.”At the end of the day”, she adds, “the one person who has to reflect on your actions is you, so be the person you want to be.” What this society looks for are people who hold themselves accountable for their own decisions and will constantly try to make the best one for themselves and others. By displaying exemplary behavior throughout life and earning the respect of members throughout a community, one can truly say they have character.

With all this in mind, I attended the much anticipated 2017 National Honor Society Induction Ceremony at the Patchogue-Medford High School. Arriving at the auditorium, it was obvious that this event had quite the large audience. Besides the reserved seats for the new inductees, all the rows were filled with excited parents and loved ones. Their eager chit-chat complemented the large blue and gold banner which hung on stage, proudly depicting the emblem of the National Honor Society. Suddenly, with a music cue from our wind ensemble, heads in the audience began to turn around as the current members of the NHS draped in their dark blue gowns walked down the aisle. Cameras were whipped out, and the senior members looked up with smiles and made their stand at the top of the stage. It seemed as if there was an ocean up there. While very impressive, even more eye-grabbing was the new inductees walking down the opposite aisle to take their places in the front rows of the audience, facing the current members. It seemed almost symbolic, as if they were waiting to finally take a spot with the current members on stage, as leaders of the school community.

After a short remark from the president, Mike Corso, the wind ensemble once again exploded into a beautiful anthem to honor the guests and new inductees. With the deep “burrs” of the tubas and the prancing, peppy notes, it was hard not to hear the connection between the wonderful music and the festive mood of the event. It was amazing to learn that our wind ensemble had actually been performing for the NHS Induction Ceremony for the past 35 years! Following the performance, the society took the opportunity to describe their four core qualities which of course are scholarship, service, leadership, and service. Each student who spoke about each quality was actually selected by the student members of the NHS due to the fact that they wholly embodied that trait.

Jennifer Li, as valedictorian of the class of 2017 clearly demonstrated her academic ability, but she reminded the class that scholarship is “not defined by weighted average, or class rank.” Instead, she wisely advised her fellow peers to “be passionate, be ambitious, and never fear failure.” That is what makes a true scholar.

Joe Finn, as a member and leader of various clubs was chosen to speak about leadership. He preached humility to the audience. In his own words, “A self proclaimed leader is not a leader”. He adds that a leader must never look down on someone, for “it is hard to look up to someone whose eyes are on the ground.”

The representative of the quality of service was Brian Roberts, who had a large hand in the “bottle flipping contest” which raised hundreds of dollars for children with cancer. He tells his peers that taking initiative is of utmost importance. “There are always people in need”, and as decent human beings we must make every effort to selflessly help each other.

The representative of the final trait of character was Kayla McGinnis, a student who is well respected by her peers. She prompts the idea that nowadays, “We get so hung up on awards and recognitions.” She knows however that all these honors don’t mean everything, because “to be respected, you must have a level of integrity.” She stresses that to be successful, one must stay true to themselves, but also be aware that small actions can have great consequences.

After each inspiring speech, these honorable students lit a candle representing their designated quality. At last, the inductees were ready to be, well, inducted! With their voices loud and proud, the students recited the National Honor Society pledge:

I pledge myself

To uphold the high

Purpose of this society

To which i have been

Elected; striving in

Every way by word and

Deed to make its ideals

The ideals of our school.

From, Hailey Abate all the way to Amanda Zamara, 111 students walked up to the stage to receive their well-earned membership. The vast number of inductees this year shows just how motivated and studious our student body is. After this exciting achievement for the inductees, I was ready to get some wisdom from the student-selected keynote speaker of the night, physics teacher, Mr. Pearson. Samantha Rossi, a member of the NHS happily introduced him, calling him “one of the most fascinating people” and proclaiming that she would miss his “spontaneous pizza parties”. It was very obvious that Mr. Pearson was quite the extraordinary man as he unprecedentedly pulled a whiteboard filled with equations on to the stage and used his laptop to read his speech! Bringing in references to things such as quantum mechanics, string theory, and Bayes’ theorem, I have to admit, I was a little lost. However, the message that permeated through, was very crystal clear and mind-grabbing. He tells the students that it is absolutely imperative to always to be open to new ideas, warning that just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t make it untrue. He spreads his wisdom and says that to not only be a scientist, but a human being, one must experiment, face failure, and always come back stronger than before.

While the NHS mainly serves to recognize students of outstanding ability, it also recognizes one impactful teacher a year as an honorary member. Emily Downs, a student, introduced Ms. Schaefer, the honorary member of the year. She passionately explains how this teacher in particular is so special, as she “treats students like adults” and has the rare ability to “connect lessons to today.” And oh does Ms. Schaefer know how to incorporate AP U.S. Government into everything! Even to me, it was quite obvious as she wittily made references to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in her genuine speech. With the ideas of Jefferson, she claims that these NHS members are the “leaders for self-governing people”.

The final award of the evening was the Frank A. Juzwiak award. This award is given to one remarkable senior NHS member who best reflects the four qualities of the NHS in the eyes of his/her peers and the school faculty. When Ms. Sweda announced the name, Elizabeth Marge, the room erupted in applause. As president of the school General Organization and an active member of many other clubs, she was clearly a wonderful choice. As she said thank you, she demonstrated humility but also extreme gratitude. Being a Frank A. Juzwiak award winner, she will now be listed amongst the other winners of past years as a role model for the entire community.

After the wonderful ceremony, I was finally able to give more thought to my question from the very beginning: What does National Honor Society and its members have in store for the world? Sitting in the audience, hearing about what this society has accomplished, I realized that all these students would eventually be heading separate ways. They would no longer be meeting several times a month to discuss ways to serve the community. They would no longer be studying together for Friday’s AP Calc test. But this does not mean they will no longer be bonded. As long as they always hold on to their deep engraved qualities of scholarship, service, leadership, and character, they will have a connection and change the world around them. I can see know that these traits are the ones which create a successful and impactful global citizen. Whether they become the president and create bills to find better health care, or become the doctor that provides the health care, they will all find their own personal way to make a difference.

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An Insight Into the Induction of a New Wave of Leaders