Thursday, May 20, 2004
Lizzie Stoll wasn't interested in student council; she worried it might not provide her the opportunities to do good deeds for the school and the community.
So the Steamboat Springs Middle School eighth-grader found another group that fulfilled her service goals -- the National Junior Honor Society.
By the time school ends in two weeks, Stoll will have completed more than 20 hours of community- and school-based service, including volunteering at local athletic events and a community dinner in Clark.
And Stoll is hardly alone. She's one of 33 Steamboat middle school students who have spent the academic year donating their time and efforts to service projects in the community and school district.
This year marks the third for the school's NJHS chapter, which is one of an estimated 5,000 chapters around the world.
The origins of NJHS stretch back more than 75 years, but the organization didn't come to Steamboat until 2001, one year after a group of parents, teachers and school administrators began brainstorming ways to recognize high-achieving students as well as those who show tremendous effort in their academics and daily lives, teacher and NJHS co-sponsor Heidi Chapman said. Teacher Sher Scheiwe is the chapter's other sponsor.
Now in its third year, the middle school's NJHS chapter has come into its own.
"It's really starting to become part of the culture of the school," Chapman said. "They've become part of the school community, like peer helpers and student council."
The number of students joining NJHS continues to increase despite the commitment to community and school service that membership demands -- not to mention the tough application process.
To be considered for NJHS, students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.75 or higher. Interested students must attend an informational meeting and then fill out an application if they're still interested in joining. Students are then required to write an essay. Each application and essay is reviewed by a faculty council, which chooses students based largely on demonstration of service, leadership, character and citizenship.
NJHS meets a couple of times each month throughout the school year, usually to plan chapter events and organize service projects. Each NJHS member is required to perform 10 hours of school service and 10 hours of community service each year.
Among the school-based projects organized and executed by the chapter was a day of faculty-versus-student athletic games and a variety of projects during "Random Acts of Kindness Week." The chapter also adopted two needy Routt County families during the holidays, and the students raised money to purchase and wrap gifts for each family. Each NJHS member also has performed his or her own community service projects throughout the year.
Scheiwe said the holiday experience was an eye-opener for many of the NJHS students and that the lessons it conveyed get to the heart of what NJHS is all about.
"It's the aspect of learning something from doing service that we try to emphasize," Scheiwe said. "It's been a very positive experience."
Particularly rewarding for Chapman and Scheiwe is when children realize the power of doing good deeds and that they can make a difference in the world.
Stoll, for one, said it's a lesson she will never forget.
"It's the little things we do that makes it feel like we're doing some good," Stoll said. "It's just something not everyone else does. I think it's a good thing."
-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234
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