What is an Honors Society?

by Kaleigh Steigman

The Monticello High School website presents the honor societies as prestigious groups that many are involved in, but no one knows much about. There isn’t a description of the societies, or what they stand for on the page, just the bold name, and directions for viewing more information.

“Monticello High School has opportunities for students to earn membership in ten different honor societies. You can learn more about each one through the menu on the left,” the website states at the top of the opening page. When the menu on the left is viewed and navigated through, the readers will be left with the same question they sought out the page to answer: What is an honor society?

“I would like to know more about the honor societies, but I haven’t heard very much about them ,” said Cara Delaney, a freshman at Monticello.

The term “honor societies” is misleading, as it alludes to a large group of conventions that are woven together. While the societies are linked in some ways, they are each run separately with independent bodies of students, regulations, and interests.

“I think each honor society has a varying degree of being involved,” said Kia Wassenaar, the president of the Latin Honor Society. “Even within the Latin society, there is a mix of involvement. Some students are really into it, and love Latin, and want to be really involved in our community, and tutoring and meeting all the time. There are also students who are in it because they are taking Latin, and it looks good on their resumes. As long as the overall society is working to do good in the community, it’s worth it, and we are doing our part,” she continued.

Regardless of the interest or regulation of the society, it is clear that all honor societies were founded with the same goals in mind.

“I think the point of honor societies is to create a community and environment where people can share their love for whatever language or subject they enjoy. Also, to provide support for that community through tutoring and support to students who just need a space to get help,” Wassenaar said.

Barry Keith, the faculty sponsor of the French and National Honor Societies, agreed. “The two-fold purpose of the honors societies are to honor their members and to allow their members to serve in order to enrich other people,” he said.

The societies have an acceptance process to find students who meet the criteria of an ideal member, which includes having a GPA in a specific range that changes based on the society.

“When we learn that students are eligible, we try to get them to fill out information about themselves, so we can find out about their community service, and their leadership, and we also ask for teacher recommendations to learn about their personal character,” said Mr. Keith.

When students are accepted into a society, many doors are opened for them to become involved in their community, and to interact with those who are learning the same things as them.

“If you are in the French Honor Society, you have studied at least three years of French with not only success, but enthusiasm to share your interest in French language and cultures of French speaking countries with other people in our community, and then beyond in the world,” said Mr. Keith.

Each society is involved in annual events and fundraisers that have many benefits to the members and the community.

“ Latin Honor Society helps kids go to Latin Convention, which is a big convention for people who speak Latin,” Wassenaar said. “It is an annual convention where Latin clubs meet up to play games and compete in contests. Latin is a dead language, so it’s cool to be around people who are trying to bring it back, and speak it, and are interested in it.”

The French Honor Society is also active. “In the French Honor Society, we held a soccer tournament to raise money for some students sponsoring an event in a village in Haiti, which is an impoverished French speaking country. We also try to do things like French Week to have other students consider the French language, and realize that the French culture is part of our everyday lives,” Mr. Keith said.

In order to accomplish these impressive feats and have fun in the process, the societies meet monthly.
“During our meetings, we go over our game plan for the next month. We talk about the fundraisers we are going to be doing, and we brainstorm ideas for other things we want to make happen,” said Wassenaar.

Student-elected officers run the meetings, and have different roles depending on the society. “ It really takes the initiative of the officers in the societies to take the lead in ensuring the communication and participation of other members,” Mr. Keith said.

Already, at the end of the first semester, there has been both a French and German week at Monticello.

Both the French and German Honor Societies selected a week to teach the student body about the culture associated with their language. These weeks included providing samples of cultural dishes and creating interactive games for students to participate in, such as competing to be the first to repeat a specific foreign phrase to a teacher during Mustang Morning.

The societies still have plans for more fun throughout the year.

“We plan to do a toga day near the end of the year. Also, during AP exams we pass out cookies with Latin phrases on them to students as a stress reliever. It’s really about trying to give back to the community through your organization, “ said Wassenaar.

There are also plans to improve the program to ensure maximum student involvement. “It is challenging to make sure all the students are involved who should be through our acceptance process, as sometimes they don’t fill out information about themselves, or teachers don’t know them, and we just don’t know about them,” Mr. Keith said. “I think it’s sad, and I hope we are able to involve more students in the future,” he continued.

Despite the differences between societies, all share a common perspective on their purpose.

“Honor societies are supposed to be fun! The tutoring might not be great, but spending time with people who like what you like is a really rewarding experience,” Wassenaar said.

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