An interview was recently granted with Hill Harper to discuss the National Honor Society’s Honor Your Future Now campaign, an effort to get young people, particularly those planning to go off to college, to think about their next steps. A second interview was granted on Jan. 15 this time with the Director of the National Honor Societies, Dr. Jonathan Mathis. In this interview Dr. Mathis, who has had a love for education his entire life, as well as helping students actualize their dreams, discusses the importance of families proactively planning for their student’s college education; particularly the all-important financial aspect. He also discusses resources that the National Honor Society has made available to plan for college, not just for its members, but to all students.
Anwar Dunbar: Hello Jonathan. First, thank you for this opportunity to interview you and ask you some more questions about Honor Your Future Now. As you know, I recently spoke with Hill Harper about the campaign. As the Director of the National Honor Society, what can you tell the audience about your organization and the campaign?
Jonathan Mathis: I can start by giving a few words about Honor Your Future Now. The National Honor Society and the National Association of Secondary School Principals are really excited about this particular campaign because the narrative is to encourage all students to envision their future selves, and to look at how we can help prepare middle and high school students to start thinking about college, their careers and a lifetime of success. So for me this campaign is really important and special because we offer expert advice, programs and resources not only to our Honor Society members, but to a general, wider public audience that will focus on helping students to get to, and through college, including how they will pay for college.
AD: Just for a little bit of context here, I want to go back and ask you a basic question. First I’m going to front it though, by saying that when I was in high school I wasn’t the most focused student academically, and I do remember having a National Honor Society Chapter at my high school (Hutch-Tech High School in Buffalo, NY). For the readers, can you just briefly tell what the National Honor Society is as an organization? Do you all have chapters at every high school? What was it set up to do?
JM: Sure. For nearly 100 years the National Honor Society and the National Junior Honor Society have empowered students to excel at four key pillars: scholarship, service, leadership and character, with a fifth pillar at the middle school level – citizenship. The National Honor Societies thus recognize and foster one million students each year to be engaged in their schools, to be empowered to lead change, and to be active in their communities, so when we look at Honor Your Future Now we’re not only talking to our Honor Society members, but to the broader public. Let’s continue to plan for our future success now. Let’s cultivate ourselves with experiences and resources that will celebrate who we envision ourselves to be. There are 25,000 chapters active at the Honor Society and the Junior Honor Society level, at both the high school and middle school levels.
AD: And just for the lay person, what are the requirements for joining? Do you have to have a 4.0 grade point average (gpa), for example?
JM: The national guideline is for students to have at least a 3.0 minimum gpa, and again to celebrate students within their school who have demonstrated scholarship, leadership, service and character. At the middle level citizenship is important too. We expect to see students inducted into the National Honor Society who are seen as leaders in their school community, and also in their external community.
AD: Okay let’s circle back and focus on Honor Your Future Now. What was the impetus for this campaign? Why did the National Honor Society feel the need to start this? It sounds like there’s a component to help students navigate college and it sounds like there’s a financial component as well. Is there a need to help students navigate college? Are there skills or values that have been lost?
JM: You know, you bring up a great question. There’s been some new research that we commissioned here at the National Honor Society that led us to find that 50% of college-seeking students worry that they’ll be unable to pay for their college education, so when you hear that statistic alone we start to wonder; How can we dismantle the myths? How do we provide additional resources? We also found that nearly 40% of the students said that they still need help trying to figure out how to apply for scholarships and 33% of students said that they would need more information just about the process. Based on that research we developed the additional programming and resources that begin to share this pertinent information, especially at this time of year when most college-seeking students are finding out whether or not they’ve been accepted to their school of choice, and how they may be able to finance their education.
So, for example, we know that Jan. 1 is the opening of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and we encourage students to complete that application and submit their FAFSA as soon as possible because the professionals in the field know that those federal dollars are packaged on a first come first serve basis. So if we want to help students to address these gaps in information and their concerns about financing their education, we really want to engage families and students as early as possible. Therefore, providing that expert advice and information can help alleviate many of those concerns.
This interview will be continued in part two of Dr. Jonathan Martin discusses Honor Your Future Now campaign.
To learn more about the resources for college planning discussed by Dr. Jonathan Mathis in this interview, visit Honor Your Future Now. Also see the National Honor Society’s infographic which describes the three components for paying for college.