NHS has long history of service at Minooka


2016 yearbook

Students participate in the Relay for Life in 2016. NHS has raised more than $60,000 over the years with this event to help fight cancer.

When the National Honor Society started the Relay for Life at Minooka in 2013, its goal was to raise money to help members of the local community who have battled or are battling cancer, as well as to help fund research.  

The relay is formatted by having students walk in a number of laps to commemorate people who survived cancer as well as those who didn’t.  Each lap is themed around a particular topic. Luminaria bags with light coming out as a memorial to cancer victims or clubs were used. Many clubs have their own lap. Over the years, Relay for Life has been successful, raising more than $60,000.

It is an example of one of the many projects NHS has done at Minooka.

The National Honors Society is celebrating its 100th year anniversary this year worldwide.  NHS started at MCHS in 1965 and has successfully helped out the community. As members take a look back on their past, they have done many great things for not only their school, but also for others, such as donations, fundraisers, and more. 

When Ms. Donna Engel began as adviser in 1996, the school had less than 1,000 students and only one building.  There were about 35 students in NHS then.  Today, Engel works with around 100 NHS students.

“My favorite part is all the interactions I have with the students,” Ms. Engel said. 

Those interactions have resulted in lots of positive events and projects.

NHS members are pictured from the 1997-98 school year.

“When we began, we really had service projects that were really about the school and were about things that were of interest to the members,” Ms. Engel said. “ As we became larger, our focus has changed to what would be the most impactful in our community and ideas that are brought forth from our members.”

Rock and Read is another event sponsored by the NHS. Starting in 1999, NHS members dressed up in costumes and read stories to little children of the community. The children were smiling as characters were reading them a story, the PPC reported in a 2001 article. 

The event started because “a member of our NHS had a sister who had leukemia and was going to the children’s hospital in Chicago where they needed books for children to read,” Ms. Engel said. “So we began a book drive and we collected books because of that.” 

A year later in 2000, the NHS sponsored a second book drive. As the year before, the students donated the books to not only the Ronald McDonald House, but also the Loyola Medical Center. The NHS donated 4,000 books the second year. The book drive was continued due to the success of the previous, and the impact they made on the kids’ lives.

But sometimes planned projects took unexpected turns.  A tragic event took place in 2011 when Allison Rivera, a senior NHS member, unexpectedly passed away before the NHS Rock and Read Halloween party.

“What am I going to do?” Ms. Engel remembered thinking.

They had an event planned that required senior members to stand in front of the community, but those same students were grieving. Engel said it was one of the toughest decisions she had as an adviser. 

They canceled the Rock and Read event, but invited the NHS students in to talk.

And then a light ignited among the faded shadow.  There was a new idea.

“The Memorial Garden was born,” said Ms. Engel.

A door was opening that welcomed students to walk in, not just to enjoy the celebrated atmosphere, but also to grieve for people they have lost thanks to the creation of the Memorial Garden. In this case, NHS had lost a member, they lost a friend, but they found a way to make it better. 

“The Memorial Garden has just become a symbol of strength and unity as it came out of tragedy,”said Ms. Engel.

Most students know how great the involvement in NHS is on college applications — but there is a lesser-known impact: the impact on the community and the community’s impact on the NHS members. 

When they propose a new service project, it’s personal. The roots of their projects intertwine with the members of the community.

“There is this moment — always, through any of our projects — when you realize it’s not about you,” Ms. Engel said. “It’s about the people you are helping. I can’t say that there’s one moment I’m so proud of because with each project there is that moment. That moment when the mom whose child passes away comes to our Memorial Garden and plants a flower, and has the ability to grieve in a beautiful setting. There is that moment where the money we are raising for cancer research is going to make a difference. Someone who needs childcare is going to have childcare. Someone who is going have a mattress to sleep on in a homeless shelter because our students have raised money.  Those are the moments. … NHS is about the moment when you see a smile on someone’s face who might never have had a smile before. Or when you’ve reached out a helping hand to someone who has perhaps never had a hand reached out to them.”

Students might want to join the organizaton because the NHS represents four areas: scholarship, leadership, character, and service. 

“It allows students who excel in those four areas to also continue to also grow in those four areas,” Ms. Engel said. “By being committed to their school and their community, by doing service projects, by being student leaders, it allows students to have a platform. Especially when it began 100 years ago, there wasn’t a different platform for that.”

The NHS is important because you get the chance to meet amazing new people and expand your knowledge on areas that you may be weak in. To be able to grow and expand your brain is one of the most important things that can be gained from the NHS. NHS is the only club in the school that you get invited to and you cannot just join.

During the fall of your junior or senior year you can be selected, but you need one full semester here at MCHS prior to that fall. You need a minimum GPA of 3.8 to qualify into getting selected into the NHS. The most important qualification you need is a portfolio of your leadership and service skills to your school and community. After all those steps you will get voted in if you have all of your credentials.

Students are inducted into NHS during the 1974-75 school year. (1975 yearbooks)

“My favorite part about being a member of NHS is the rewarding feeling of accomplishing a service project or event and seeing how much joy we can bring to others and the positive impact we have on the community,” said senior NHS member Ava Bezaire.

The NHS inspires and makes an impact on the students, teachers, and community. 

“(NHS) is a great way to serve my school and community while also getting to spend time with my friends and make new friends,” Sarah Forgue-Pienta, a 2010 MCHS graduate and NHS member, said.

Whether it was the senior citizen dance they organized, or the food and clothing drive, NHS was always putting others in the community first, and it made it a fun time in the process.

“My favorite part about being in NHS was getting involved in the community and making a difference in other peoples’ lives. We always had a fun time!” Forgue-Pienta said.

Another thing NHS excels at is catering to the students. They make sure that the students’ input is implemented into the projects and designs

“There was always room for students to make the traditional events their own or to bring our own passions and create new events,” Stephanie Engel, a 2011 MCHS graduate and NHS member, said.

1965 was the first year of membership year for MCHS. Twelve members were selected based on scholarship, character, leadership, and service, just like they do today.

The first NHS class at Minooka was inducted in 1965. (1965 yearbook)

To get a scholarship you would have to have a minimum average of 4.0 or a B with membership acceptance. The faculty rated the students who would be considered to go into the program. The Faculty Executive Board would make the final selection.

Another thing the NHS did was sock hops, sponsored dances that were held after events. In October 1967, the NHS organized a sock hop after a basketball game after having their first meeting of the year. They planned for the induction in late October.

The NHS helped a lot at MCHS, including the senior citizen dance, penny wars, and inviting over people to snack. The senior citizen dance was good for seniors and students to have fun and relax.  According to Forgue-Pienta, the seniors were all smiling and happy.

Katie Connor meets guests at the Senior Citizen Prom during the 2003-04 school year. (2004 yearbook)

“My favorite NHS event last year was the 55 and better dance, which is where we invite anyone 55 or older into the school and throw a little party with food, music, games, and other forms of entertainment,” said Bezaire. “It was so fun and rewarding to see how much happiness we brought to those that came. We also got to learn how to swing dance from one of the gentlemen there, and that was just amazing.”

Penny Wars was considered a great way for students and teachers to get involved with both the school and people in need. It was a fun fundraiser for kids to participate in and the winner got free donuts at the end. The funds raised would go to Lutheran World Relief Hurricane Effort. 

NHS started an annual drive call Baby It’s Cold Outside in 1999, and since then have impacted many lives.

This has touched the hearts of many NHS members. The donations go out to Lamb’s Fold, a local shelter for women and their children who are survivors of domestic abuse.

“This is a cause that is underserved, I am so proud that NHS also did education and brought this cause to light,” Ms. Engel said. 

When South Campus opened in 2008, NHS created the Freshman Experience to better help incoming freshmen become acquainted with the building.  That has changed over the years, and recently Operation Friendship has started. NHS members come into freshman classrooms to interact and help navigate that year. 

“It’s so hard to get advice now when you’re a remote learner,” Ms. Engel said. 

NHS has one two national awards for Outstanding Service Programs.  The first was in 2000 for Rock and Read.  The second was in 2002 for Baby, It’s Cold Outside and the 55 and Better Dance. 

The award-winning program has continued to help the community with their teamwork.  This year’s group will handoff the responsibilities to the next and keep the relay of service going through future decades. 


Students in the Media & Journalism 1 class researched, wrote, and edited this story.  Those students are Paige Anderson, Luke Dahl, Kendall Hibler, Kayla Marks, Cole Pearson, Tan Nghi Phat, Ella Preboy, Angela Riley, Zoe Skrezyna, and Will Stiteley.