National Honor Society

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The National Honor Society (NHS) is a nationwide organization in the United States and consists of many chapters in high schools. Selection is based on four criteria: scholarship, leadership, service, and character. The National Honor Society requires some sort of service to the community, school, or other organizations. The projects help students meet the required service hour total monthly. The National Honor Society was founded in 1921 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The Alpha chapter of NHS was founded at Fifth Avenue High School by Principal Edward S. Rynearson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[1]

National Honor Society groups are commonly active in community service activities both in the community and at the school. Many chapters maintain a requirement for participation in such service activities.

In addition, NHS chapters typically elect officers, who, under the supervision of the chapter adviser, coordinate and manage the chapter as a student organization.


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) officially established NHS in 1921. 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 in Pittsburgh, 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:
1. to create enthusiasm for scholarship
2. to stimulate a desire to render service
3. to promote leadership
4. to develop character in the students of secondary schools. [2]


Over one million students are estimated to participate in the National Honor Society. NHS and NJHS chapters are found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many U.S. territories, and Canada. They can also be found in areas of Asia; Pakistan has three schools maintaining an active chapter. They further can be found in international and American schools throughout the globe.


The NHS motto is noblesse oblige.[3] This is French for "nobility obligates". According to the French Wiktionary, it has these meanings:[4]

1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.

2. (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms with one's position, and with the reputation that one has earned.

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