National English Honors Society seeks to serve students


Claire Smout

Book in hand, NEHS sponsor and English teacher Kim Hanan-West discusses with sophomore Trinity Peoples. When former student, Gabe Davis asked Hanan-West about an English honors society, Hanan-West did some research and started applying to NEHS. “I would encourage any student who is passionate about books, literacy and writing to apply,” Hanan-West said.

Mu Alpha Theta for math, Beta Chi Pi for science, Rho Kappa for history and…no honors society for English. That is, until this fall, which brought the beginning of a National English Honors Society (NEHS) chapter.

“I see an opportunity for this group to make an impact at West and celebrate English. There are so many contests available and events nationally that West High can get more involved in,” sponsor Andria Benmuvhar said. “This is both an area of need, but also I think of pride. We have many strong [English] students and they should have a platform to show off those skills and, in turn, help West.”

Last year the idea was brought to the attention of sponsors, Benmuvhar and English teachers Kim Hanan-West and Diana Lurkins, by graduate Charlie Woodruff and former student Gabe Davis. Although neither of these students got to see NEHS come to be, Benmuvhar, Hanan-West and Lurkins, helped make their idea a reality.

“I have been waiting for English to get an honors society for a while now,” member and committee chair Harper Stewart said. “I remember coming in freshman year and asking where I could sign up only to find out there wasn’t an honors society for English.”

At meetings, members discuss ideas for events, tutoring and workshops to benefit students. They had planned a workshop for November to help seniors with their college essays, but it was canceled due to poor weather conditions. However, they plan on trying again in the spring for rising seniors.

“Our next workshop in January will be focused on helping any and all interested sophomores with their English research papers,” Stewart said. “We are also helped out at Sip and Study with running a vocabulary station to quiz freshmen on vocabulary terms for their upcoming English final.”

With 56 current members, NEHS is made up of students who have an English GPA of 3.0 or higher and have attended West for at least one year. As part of applying, prospective members also have to write an essay explaining how they see their involvement with NEHS helping the school community, commit to doing five English focused service hours and have 75 percent meeting attendance. The next window to apply will be in April 2019.

“NEHS lets students tap into their love and skill of English to help the West community both academically and hopefully via enthusiasm for the material. I would encourage anyone who thinks in that manner to apply,” Benmuvhar said.

The sponsors hope that NEHS will allow students to grow and sharpen their reading and writing skills amidst the push for more focus on STEM.

“Successful individuals must also be highly literate and able to think abstractly. With the current rise in tech-focused learning and career paths, it’s also important to recognize a discipline which helps us discover our shared humanity,” Hanan-West said. “An honor society that celebrates and deepens the passion students have for this discipline is vital to a well-rounded society.”