When Pocahontas County High School students are accepted as members of the National Honor Society, it is because they personify the four pillars of the academic organization – scholarship, leadership, service and character.
As they considered service as part of the requirements, the members brainstormed with advisors Darlene Arbogast, Samara Mann and Laurel Dilley and decided to “serve” at the schools they attended before entering high school.
Beginning in 2019, once a month, the students report directly to Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Marlinton Elementary School and Hillsboro Elementary School and spend half the day in the classrooms, helping teachers and working with students.
Each student is assigned a classroom, and they assist the teachers with class work and errands.
Last week, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, the students shared their experiences working with the younger kids as well as with their teachers from years ago.
Senior Mathias Solliday said the program began with just the Marlinton members going to MES and with the success of that, it expanded to include all the elementary schools.
“Some of the Marlinton kids went down to their schools and read a little bit, just to get a feel of how it is,” he said. “They did that a couple of times, and it progressed to this. So now everybody is going to their original schools and helping out. Not just reading, but helping the teachers.”
Solliday is assigned to social studies teacher Amanda Ryder and has been helping students with their projects for the social studies fair.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Seeing everything that’s changed and what all has stayed the same. It brings back a lot of memories, and it feels good to be back.”
Junior Kira Bircher works in the library with librarian Leah Shinaberry. The first time she was with the students, she spent time explaining the honor society as an academic organization.
“I told them what NHS was and what we were involved in and a lot more about high school,” she said. “Now they know me, and so I hang out with them. The kindergarteners, I read them a book and then I sit in on their stories. I’ve organized the bookshelves. I just help with the different classes that come in.”
While the NHS members are in the classrooms, they are given different tasks by teachers – helping with decorations, printing assignments or even spending one- on-one time with students who need a little extra help.
At times, a NHS member can be observed in the hallway, sitting at a small desk opposite a student with a board between them. This is usually a time when the NHS member helps the student with their vocabulary words to ensure they are pronouncing them all properly.
“I had a kid pulled out and I helped him do his work, and we worked one-on-one,” senior Noah Barkley said. “I really enjoyed it. I was kind of shaky about how I would be with younger kids, but once I got to know them, I was really comfortable.”
Barkley was even called on to use a die-cut machine to cut out shamrocks to help decorate June Taylor’s second grade classroom.
Whatever the task may be, the students are ready to help out, although it was an adjustment when they returned to the halls of elementary school.
“At first, it felt really weird,” Barkley said. “The thing I think is the weirdest is when you see fourth graders or second graders and you’re like, ‘wow, I was that small.’ I’m a senior this year, and you’re like, ‘where’s the time gone?’ In a couple of months, I’m out in the real world, and I have to make real world decisions.”
Despite the initial surreal feel of going back in time, the NHS members say they enjoy their time helping the younger students and giving back to the school that set them on their path of learning.
“I was excited to get to go back to my old school and help the little kids,” junior Charity Warder said.
The NHS members will continue to serve their “home” schools once a month for the rest of the year, and hopefully, the tradition will carry on in the future.