National Honor Society
The National Honor Society (NHS)
Established in 1921
The National Honor Society (NHS) is the nation's premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students. More than just an honor roll, NHS serves to honor those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character. These characteristics have been associated with membership in the organization since their beginnings in 1921.
Today, it is estimated that more than one million students participate in activities of the NHS. NHS chapters are found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many U.S. Territories, and Canada. Chapter membership not only recognizes students for their accomplishments, but challenges them to develop further through active involvement in school activities and community service.
In 1921, NASSP officially established the National Honor Society. Though many local and regional honor societies existed prior to 1921, no nationwide organization had been founded. Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Rynearson, principal of the Fifth Avenue High School, Pittsburgh, Pa., the organization grew from the original Alpha Chapter at the Fifth Avenue School to more than 1,000 chapters by 1930. Equipped with a constitution, an emblem and motto, and a group of dedicated principals as coordinators, the new NHS organization quickly developed into one of the country's leading educational groups.
Four main purposes have guided chapters of NHS from the beginning: "To create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character in the students of secondary schools." (from the NHS Constitution) These purposes also translate into the criteria used for membership selection in each local chapter.
In 1929, the NASSP turned its attention to middle level schools and expanded the scope of its concern for recognizing outstanding students by establishing the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). With its own constitution and handbook, NJHS has established criteria that parallel the emphases found in the NHS with an added purpose to encourage citizenship. (Additional information on establishing a chapter of the NJHS is available upon request from the NASSP Department of Student Activities.)
The NHS is sponsored and supervised by NASSP which appoints a National Council - the controlling body of NHS. In addition, National Council members also serve as the selection committee for the prestigious NHS Scholarship which has been administered annually in schools with NHS chapters since 1946.
The day-to-day administration of NHS national concerns is handled by the NASSP Department of Student Activities, headquartered in Reston, VA.