NHS Volunteering Could Be Made More Meaningful

Come March, applications for acceptance into National Honor Society (NHS) will be coming fast and furious. Eager sophomores will scramble to determine whether they match academic and extracurricular requirements to join the club without exactly having much of an idea of the club’s purpose.

“I don’t know exactly the purpose of NHS but I do know that there are a significant amount of people in it,” sophomore Akhil Avula said. “And I plan on applying for it come time for application.”

NHS acceptance is non-selective considering the number of students accepted every year. And with these mass acceptances, NHS reels in many students that care little about the club because of the general ignorance about how the club functions.

“I feel like NHS is a club that acknowledges a students academic achievement, volunteering sounds like a byproduct,” NHS member junior Alex Kuo said.

NHS is a conglomeration of accomplished students in each class who may or may not care about the volunteering opportunities offered by the club. The ticket to admission into the club comes from the club’s lax acceptance policies. Many students find themselves getting more out of their community service experience by participating in private service.

“I tutor children in East Palo Alto at Boys and Girls Foundation,” Alex said. “I find it a much more engaging experience because of how involved I am and the fact that I get satisfaction for myself out of it being a recurring thing. My experience for volunteering at NHS is bearable, but I would rather establish long term volunteering relationship than drop in volunteering.”

Community service opportunities that students pursue should be means for them to embolden their character while becoming acclimated with those in need. NHS events are not.

The bureaucratic nature of NHS and the constraints that they impose seem to make for a less favorable way to pursue community service as opposed to personal pursuits.

“I can’t speak for all students, but being able to be active in [more private] opportunities, such as a hospital, offers an amazing experience,” Akhil said. “However, NHS also sounds like it might be a great starting point for volunteering.”

NHS’s popularity at Los Altos can largely be attributed to the seductive name, and the fact that students are compelled to join it because its recognition on a national basis. Meanwhile, the events that NHS offers are generally more sporadic and, while they generally involve the community, the lack of longevity in terms of commitment about any of these events makes it so that, while students do end up gaining hours from doing these activities, they don’t necessarily get the personal accomplishment from community service.

“I find that the regularity in NHS volunteering experiences makes me less involved and less personal in the things that I volunteer,” Alex said.

The impersonal nature of NHS activity does not, however, mean that students in the club should not be active in getting the most from it. Most students in NHS only satisfy their volunteer hours cap as a way to continue in the clubs for their two years. However, if students actually found themselves dedicated and passionate to the events that NHS offered, it would serve to make those students’ NHS hours much more valuable.

“Since we have over 150 members, we provide a lot more opportunities for members to reach out to different parts of their communities,” NHS secretary senior Caroline Deng said. “We have done events from sports boosters to elementary school events, and we have gotten a lot of compliments from people we have volunteered with—such as the Almond Carnival, the Music and Sports Departments, and the local library associations—and a lot of them do invite NHS back to volunteer again.”

If NHS were to encourage students to foster a passion in the club’s volunteering opportunities, it could live up to its aspirations of building character individuals.

“Ultimately, I believe that if NHS has people with strong character [who] understand the role they are playing, they are fostering a passion in [community service],” Akhil said.

Regardless of the impersonal nature of the community service opportunities, it has provided events that some students in the club might get satisfaction from. The reality, however, is that NHS provides an incentive for only a few of the students involved in the otherwise massive club.

In this line of thought, NHS has tried to become more integrated as a part of the community this year by providing hours for involving students in other events, such as the YEAH! Club sponsored Blood Drive.

“This year, we have encouraged members to suggest events that NHS can participate in and we always open to new event ideas, and members of other on-campus clubs, such as the Veterans Appreciation Club, UNICEF and the YEAH! Club have taken the initiative to do so,” Caroline said.