BHS National Honor Society chapter celebrates 100th birthday

April 01, 2023
Attendees of the Burlington High School National Honor Society chapter line up to claim prizes Thursday, March 23, 2023, during a round of NHS Bingo, which was part of the chapter's 100th birthday celebration at the BHS library. Below: NHS photos are displayed on a table ahead of the celebration.

Attendees of the Burlington High School National Honor Society chapter line up to claim prizes Thursday, March 23, 2023, during a round of NHS Bingo, which was part of the chapter's 100th birthday celebration at the BHS library. Below: NHS photos are displayed on a table ahead of the celebration.

Current and prospective members of Burlington High School’s National Honor Society gathered March 23, 2023, alongside teachers, administrators and community members in the high school library to celebrate 100 years of service, leadership, character, and scholarship.

The BHS chapter of NHS was formed in 1922, making it the first chapter west of the Mississippi River.

“It’s really special to know that this chapter is the oldest chapter west of the Mississippi,” BHS Principal Monica Myers said before introducing Christina Hess-Haughey, faculty advisor for NHS.

Hess-Haughey informed the about 30 people attending the chapter’s centennial celebration that in its history, chapter members have organized or participated in no less than 900 service projects.

“National Honor Society students serve their community,” Hess-Haughey said. “A typical school year at BHS has approximately nine community service projects for National Honor Society alone. This means that this chapter has organized or participated in more than 900 service projects in its history. That equates to 900 times that this chapter has impacted the community.”

Among those service projects have been senior proms at assisted living facilities, making blankets for the homeless, clothing and homeless shelter drives, animal shelter drives, Toys for Tots, Trunk or Treat, and many more. Sam Morehead, president of BHS’s NHS chapter, informed those in attendance about such activities through a game of NHS Bingo before introducing keynote speaker Anikka Cook, a 2018 graduate of BHS who went on to double major in History and Strategic Communication at Miami University in Ohio, from which she graduated magna cum laude and with Honors with Distinction.

She now is a long-term substitute at BHS, where she teaches American Studies. She plans to go on to pursue a masters and a career as a history professor.

But before all of that, Cook was a high school sophomore applying to join NHS. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.6 to be invited to apply to NHS, and membership is contingent upon applicants’ ability to show how they exemplify in their lives the organization’s four pillars: service, leadership, character, and scholarship.

“I would love to tell you that I joined NHS because my 16-year-old self fully understood the legacy of National Honor Society and was committed to upholding its pillars in every aspect of my life, but that would be a dramatic exaggeration,” Cook recalled.

Instead, she was spurred to join by her competitive nature, a desire to outperform her peers, and a personal need to be a part of every student organization possible. But what she would learn through her NHS membership continues to serve her today.

“When I thought of my own NHS experience, I realized entry into National Honor Society is not so much the acknowledgment of

mastery of any of the four pillars, but rather the recognition of the seeds of true character, service, leadership and scholarship in a student with the intention of nurturing these seeds as they grow, and that is what National Honor Society did for me,” she said.

Cook, who served as NHS president in her senior year of high school, and current NHS executive board members went on to explain to those in attendance the role that each of the four pillars has played in their lives.


When Cook first joined National Honor Society, she had a considerable amount of experience in service, but her understanding of the motivation behind service was greatly enriched by her NHS membership.

“I was used to volunteering and loved serving my community, but NHS made my experience serving others so much more,” Cook said. “It gave me a community of like-minded people who are committed to serving the greater good. The hardest part of service for me was not taking the time to get involved, but instead setting aside my own ego and learning that true service is intrinsically motivated. It doesn’t wait for direction or demand recognition or praise. It’s a way of devoting a portion of yourself to the well-being of others.”

Like Cook, Hannah Wegmann, a BHS senior and an at-large member on the NHS executive board, was no stranger to service when she joined NHS in her sophomore year.

Wegmann thought back to 2020, when the pandemic resulted in widespread closures and restrictions. The pandemic was especially hard on residents of assisted living facilities as they stopped allowing visitors.

Wegmann took it upon herself to send cards and decorations to those living in local nursing homes.

“They really enjoyed it,” she said. “It brightened their rooms up and just gave them a little burst of joy in a sad time.”

But that was about the extent of her service prior to joining NHS. Since becoming a member, Wegmann said, she has developed a larger appreciation for and enjoyment of giving back to her community, particularly when it comes to raking leaves, something NHS members do each fall for area residents unable to rake their own yards.

“It really makes you feel good about the fact that you went out and did something selfless,” Wegmann said. “It grew my character, and it’s opened my eyes that you should help others.”

Wegmann will be organizing a service project this month that will also involve giving cards to assisted living, nursing and hospice facilities this month.


Cook said she has always liked to lead, but the leadership pillar has been her most challenging.

“I knew I liked to lead, and I was excited to take on bigger leadership roles in organizations I was a part of,” she said. “Though my high school self was trying her best, I have to admit that at the time, I was less passionate about leadership and more excited about being in charge. I thought that the reason I earned my leadership roles was because of all of the knowledge and skills I possessed. I could not have been more wrong.”

Through her leadership roles in high school as the president of NHS and Student Council, Cook began to realize leadership has more to do with empathy and recognition of others than with being in charge.

“Leadership is relational,” Cook said. “It’s not the recognition of the greatness of yourself, but of the greatness of others. Being a good manager does not make you a good leader. Leadership requires constant ego-checking, reflection, and prioritizing the needs of others. I only began to grasp this concept of leadership in high school and didn’t attempt to practice it until college and beyond. This kind of leadership is inherently humbling, and is a skill I strive to improve everyday.”

For Melanie Reid, another at-large member of the NHS executive  board, leadership is about how you use your morals and relationships to build up others.

“Everyone kind of has their own definition of what they think it

means to be a leader, but for me personally, I think using your morals and your relations to help other people build themselves up and become bigger parts of the community is a great way to help become a leader and help other people become leaders as well,” Reid said.

She believes it’s also one of the most important pillars of NHS and that everyone in NHS has leadership qualities.

Even still, she admitted that for her, leadership is the most difficult pillar to exemplify, especially when it came to applying for NHS, though since then, she has found numerous opportunities to practice leadership through activities and clubs.

“I feel like once you get to high school, it opens up so many more opportunities to become a leader, because there’s so many different clubs and activities where you can use your values, your strong suits and the things you know and do best to help other people better themselves and better others to build a stronger community,” she said.

She recently put her leadership skills to the test by organizing the chapter’s first ever Teddy Bear Toss, but she said leadership is important in all aspects of life.

“We’re not a huge group of people,” she said. “We really do bond with each other over trying to make our school and community a better place, and that is why leadership is so important for NHS.”


Cook said character is perhaps the most important pillar of NHS, but it can be elusive.

“As I attempted to research the definition of character, I realized that most NHS chapters define character very differently depending on what school they’re from,” she said. “The definition that most stuck out to me was this: Character is the force within an individual that distinguishes that person from others, not their ability to be nice, kind and cheerful and to always say please and thank you. While we can argue that these things are important, they’re not the end-all, be-all of valuable traits in a person.”

Cook recalled being hyper-aware of how she was perceived by others during her high school years. She wanted to be seen as nice and polite, but since then, her understanding of character has shifted.

“I thought character was whether or not others thought I was good, but character is inherently unique,” Cook said. “It is what distinguishes a person from others. It’s who you are. It’s your most authentic self. NHS doesn’t need more nice members. It needs individuals grounded in their personal values who use them to make the world around them a better place. We need people who not only respect each other’s differences but celebrate them and encourage them to live out their fullest potential. When we encourage uniqueness and diversity of character, we build a chapter in the legacy that’s ready to withstand challenges and expand.”

Hunter Ford, treasurer of NHS, said character not only defines who a person is but also influences those around them.

He said among the most important character traits are honesty, responsibility, and respect, both for others and yourself.

“As National Honor Society members, it is our responsibility to be role models for not only students within BHS, but for everyone in our community and everyone we come in contact with. Character is what helps set examples for those around us, whether it comes through in the setting of a classroom, during a sporting event, or even out in the community,” he said.

He further indicated that character can be fluid, ever-changing throughout our lives through choices made.


Cook said her concept of scholarship changed significantly after joining NHS.

“The drive to do my best in my school work increased,” she said. “Slowly, I learned to stop taking shortcuts in my studies and truly strive to improve my skills, especially in writing and analysis.”

Her sense of scholarship paid off in college as it gave her the tools needed to distinguish herself among a pool of competitive students. It also helped her to see criticism as a tool for growth.

“By my junior year of college, my hard work had paid off and I was selected by my university’s history department to write and publish my own undergraduate thesis,” she said. “That 18-month-long project was the culmination of years of pushing myself and prioritizing scholarship and a commitment to learning in my own personal academic quest.”

Morehead equated scholarship with civic duty and as a responsibility to the human race.

“It helps us be better community members,” Morehead said. “In this day and age, there is so much false and misinformation that can create a lot of distrust and even sometimes chaos out in the world. If you continue to have this scholarship and you continue learning and continue being informed, then you can better your community by knowing what’s going on and being able to honestly tell others the way you feel.”

He further stated that scholarship can help create new discoveries to help those around you and that it helps in most real-world situations.

“It helps you improve critical thinking, it helps you understand what’s going on in a real moment in time,” he said. “That way, you can react accordingly and with a well thought out plan and honest, open thinking.”

He challenged those in attendance to continue practicing scholarship to better both themselves and others.


Hess-Haughey stressed that NHS isn’t an organization that focuses solely on academics.

“National Honor Society students aren’t just smart kids,” she said. “They are so much more than a GPA or a class rank. They are today’s leaders, they are our bright future. They deeply impact our school and community.”

She then referenced a phrase often used on the district’s social media accounts and on the pages of this newsletter.

“Our district uses the hashtag ThisIsBurlington when promoting school events and accomplishments,” Hess-Haughey said. “This is 100 years of Burlington. This is approximately 900 service projects in Burlington. This is Burlington’s countless members serving countless hours of community service. This is Burlington students leading. This is Burlington students being impactful. This is Burlington.”