Sixteen new members were inducted into the Pocahontas County High School National Honor Society last Tuesday. Seniors and juniors who exemplify the four pillars of NHS – Scholarship, Service, Leadership and Character – were nominated and selected by the staff for membership in the prestigious organization.
During the event, guest speaker Sarah Riley, executive director of High Rocks, addressed the inductees and current members of NHS. Riley shared her wisdom and congratulatory remarks.
“I understand from my work at High Rocks that there’s a secret recipe for young people, including you, to transform your lives and communities,” she said. “I’m going to give it to you for free. It’s a simple recipe made of four pillars – learning, leadership, community engagement and wellness.
“Learning – real and deep engagement with learning over a lifetime,” she continued. “Leadership – growing your ability to lead a team; to use your voice; to know how and when to step up and step back. Community engagement – from volunteering to help other people with their ideas to coming up with your own ideas and making them happen in your community. And wellness – health and wellness are the basis for all the rest of your growth. That includes everything from having access to basic needs, like clean laundry and food in your house, to physical health and emotional wellbeing.”
Riley spoke about how it is a misconception that students have to leave the state of West Virginia to find success in their careers. She assured the students it is possible to remain in the mountain state and be a success.
“Of the WVU students who are West Virginia natives, sixty percent of them right now are leaving the state as soon as they graduate believing that there is not a future for them here in the mountain state,” she said. “I’m here to tell you that’s not true. West Virginia’s employers are hungry for quality hires, just like West Virginia’s colleges are in search of top talent.
“West Virginia is an amazing place, not only for natural beauty, but for small business growth like mine, and our county and our state are ripe for investment,” she continued. “It’s a great place to invest your time, your talent and your treasure. I want you to have every door of opportunity open to you. I want you to be successful and happy anywhere in the world, including right here. I know you can be.”
There will be hard times, Riley warned. She explained that this generation of teens has the highest rate of mental health risks than any previous generation. More and more teens experience anxiety, depression, stress and panic attacks.
“High performance teens like all of you may be at an even higher risk because you care so much about your future and you care so much about the people around you,” she said. “Reach out when you need help. Take time to de-stress. Build a personal wellness routine and stick with it. Build a healthy toolbox of coping mechanisms. You’re not the only one who’s dealing with it. I promise.”
Riley said the top three challenges facing students in West Virginia is fit, finance and academics, in that order. Fit is the ability to find a place where you belong, finding a sense of community with the people you surround yourself with and the place you call home.
“You guys are incredibly lucky,” she said. “You’ve grown up in a tight knit community that has loved you and has raised you. You’ve probably never had to think about how to create a community for yourselves because you’ve always had it. The good news is, you know what community looks like. You know it means showing up, making new connections, organizing events and people and investing in strong relationships.
“Use these skills,” she continued. “They are power skills, and they will not only help you in school and college – they will catapult you to success in the workplace.
“So, my advice to you?” she began. “Take care of yourselves. Invest in your wellness. It’s the foundation that will carry you forward. Build community – not only here – but everywhere you go. Grow your power skills. When you’re not sure what do to, look around for something that needs done and figure it out.
“That goes for school, for home, for work,” she continued. “Keep building your learning, your leadership, your community engagement and your health and wellness, and you will grow to lead your generation; to lead this community and to lead our world.”
The pandemic took a toll on education the past two years, but as Riley explained, the students came through with flying colors and proved they have the ability to overcome obstacles and stand strong on the other side.
“You’ve been through a lot,” she said. “We are so proud of you. Congratulations. You are Warriors. You are survivors. Now is your time to dive fully back into learning, into exploration, into building community, into people and into your own leadership.”
Inductees to the Pocahontas County High School National Honor Society for 2022 were welcomed to the organization through a candle lighting ceremony led by current members: president Rachel Burns, vice president Macaden Taylor, secretary Sarah Warder, treasurer Hazel Riley, Allyson Alderman, Ethan Armstrong, Hunter Curran, Maxwell Ervine, Makenna McKenney, Cassandra Moats, Bracie Sheets, Makayla Vandevander and Kyle Wayne.
Makayla Ervine, daughter of John and Crystal Ervine, of Green Bank.
Maxine Puffenbarger, daughter of Derek and Rhonda Puffenbarger, of Hillsboro.
Rayna Smith, daughter of David and Kristie Smith, of Marlinton.
Isabella Bauserman, dau-ghter of Jonah and Tara Bauserman, of Bartow.
Mary Grace Beverage, daughter of Gray and Marsha Beverage, of Dunmore.
Melinda Beverage, daughter of Gray and Marsha Beverage, of Dunmore.
Amanda Burns, daughter of Mike and Connie Burns, of Marlinton.
Brycen Carroll, son of Stanley and Crystal Carroll, of Cass.
Traves Lewis, son of Thomas and Alexa Lewis, of Cass.
Sydney Puffenbarger, dau-ghter of Brian and Rebecca Puffenbarger, of Marlinton.
Maxwell O’Ganian, son of Paul Marganian and Karen O’Neil, of Dunmore.
Emma Riffe, daughter of Allen and Melissa Sisler, of Bartow.
Mason Solliday, son of Daniel and Laura Solliday, of Green Bank.
Haley Spencer, daughter of Jody and Rebecca Spen-cer, of Marlinton.
Sara Stull, daughter of Peggy Stull, of Bartow.
Kelsi Taylor, daughter of Travis and Allison Taylor, of Durbin.