By Toni Garrard Clay/AISD Communications Coordinator
Let’s be honest. It’s not easy to get middle school kids to voluntarily spend half a Saturday in a team-building exercise on campus. But that’s exactly what 55 Athens Middle School students did at the end of August. Such is the strength of the National Junior Honor Society in its second year at AMS.
“These are kids trying to come together and impact the culture of their school in a positive way,” said Maureen Bogowitz, NJHS sponsor and academic dean at AMS.
The premise of the half-day camp was to focus on what Bogowitz calls “lollipop moments” — a term from a story by author Drew Dudley, in which he describes giving a stranger a lollipop in a humorous exchange that, he learned years later, ended up fundamentally making that person’s life better.
“We think leadership has to be about changing the world. So we don’t take ownership of it,” said Bogowitz. “Anybody can be a leader. We need to tell people who have impacted our lives thank you, and also look for ways to intentionally create those moments for others.”
There are 84 members of the AMS National Junior Honor Society, and according to 8th-grader Cage Hill, the driving force behind the organization is being a positive influence on others.
“I like all the different things we get to do for the community,” he said. “Last year we went to a nursing home during Valentine’s Day and Christmas and gave out bags of candy. I liked that we got to make people happy.”
Becoming a member of NJHS is not just about having good grades. In addition to academic achievement, all prospective members are rated by staff members in the areas of leadership, service, character and citizenship. If a student has excellent grades but is not well represented in the other areas, that person would not be accepted.
“You have to be a true leader at heart and want to do good for people around you,” said Megan Ford, another 8th-grader returning for her second year in the honor society. “This gives us so many opportunities to learn.”
Bogowitz said they will be repeating some of their favorite service projects from last school year, such as reading to students at the elementary schools at Christmas time and visiting residents of a senior living facility. But they are also brainstorming ways to impact their own student body more.
“I want them to understand how powerful they are,” said Bogowitz. “There are more of them than there are faculty. They can make a positive difference.”