Students facilitate the creation of a National English Honors Society chapter


Emily Rayfield

Seniors Erin Puhan and Ann Truka attempt to staple an essay in their AP English Literature and Composition (AP Lit) class. AP Lit is the senior honors option English course. “I think English is very collaborative,” AP Lit teacher Andria Benmuvhar said. “You read together, you talk together, and, apparently, you staple essays together.”

For the first time ever, a National English Honors Society (NEHS) chapter is being created. Sophomore Gabe Davis is heading the task of establishing the chapter.

The process began in February when Davis realized that applications for Mu Alpha Theta and the other honors societies were coming out, but there was no English Honors Society.

“English is important to me because it is how [people] learn to think about the world outside of a binary mathematical or scientific sense,” Davis said. “That’s how you develop your own emotions and political views.”

Sophomore Susie Seidel and junior Dani Fischer are also involved in the creation of the NEHS chapter, which has no official Greek name at this point in time.

“I am [a] really passionate, English-based person and I’ve always been more English-oriented rather than math or science,” Seidel said. “So I thought that having a place where people more like me could express themselves and share their passions would be a good addition to this school. In [English] there is a place for everyone to express themselves.”

In order for the chapter to be approved, English department chair Dan Barnes had to put down a $100 deposit to the honors board. Additionally, Davis had to secure a sponsor for the chapter, establish what activities the chapter would participate in, get approval from Principal Dr. Jeremy Mitchell, get approval from the budget board and fill out a form to create an official chapter in the National Honors system.

“[Davis] is really passionate about English and I think that really shows through all the hoops she jumped through to make her ideas and hopes [for NEHS] a reality,” Seidel said.

There should be a space for everyone to practice what they’re passionate about….I don’t think we should forget about English and other types of learning or subjects that people are interested in.

— sophomore Susie Seidel

English teachers Kim Hanan West and Andria Benmuvhar agreed to sponsor the chapter.

“I am hoping members will have a chance to find others who share a love of literature and writing, offering them a place outside the classroom to share their enthusiasm,” Benmuvhar said. “I would like to see our chapter of NEHS promote activities and contests that inspire others to get enthusiastic about books, poetry, and writing.”

In terms of activities, Barnes wanted to ensure that NEHS would participate in English-based things rather than resumé fillers.

“We’ve thought about starting a peer-editing system for our fellow classmates,” Davis said. “We also want to get more involved in things that already exist like the African American read-in and the Poetry Slam because those things get kind of underlooked, unlike math contests and [STEM] activities.”

However, no one involved in the creation of NEHS is attempting to disvalue the importance of the STEM program.

“I totally support the inclusion [and growth] in STEM programs here because there should be a space for everyone to practice what they’re passionate about,” Seidel said. “But I don’t think we should forget about English and other types of learning or subjects that people are interested in.”

The hope of the students and teachers involved in this process is that students will become better people who are more cognizant of the world around them. Applications for NEHS will be available at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

“There’s been such a focus on STEM, maybe influenced by the government’s push, for so long and while STEM is absolutely important, we cannot forget the humanities,” Barnes said. “And I hope it is starting to swing back [towards the humanities] because through [them] we learn empathy, we learn humanity, we learn how the world functions through literature.”