Nineteen Bellows Spring Elementary School students last week became pioneers in the Howard County Public School System, as they became the first in the county to belong to a chapter of the National Elementary Honor Society.
The fourth- and fifth-graders were the first inductees to the society at the Ellicott City school. At a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 11, each received pins and certificates marking their achievements.
To be considered for the society, students had to have at least 80 percent A's last year, and at least 80 percent "outstanding" marks on their learning codes (things like citizenship and class participation). So guidance counselor and chapter adviser Elizabeth Ivey combed through about 240 report cards to find qualified students.
Students had to receive recommendations from their teachers, and demonstrate through a list how they were involved in their home, school, community or church. Students had to exhibit each of the four pillars of the society: scholarship, responsibility, service and leadership.
"This goes well beyond scholarship," said Bellows Spring Principal Harry Walker. "We look at scholarship as a way to get your foot in the door, but what we're interested in is fostering in these kids a sense of leadership and service. I think that's very important."
Walker wanted to establish an honor society at the school after seeing the positive impact it had while he was a principal at Sandy Plains Elementary School in Dundalk.
"It's a challenging, Title 1 school," he said. "But I saw how powerful this could be to mold young kids, getting them to think beyond themselves. I was so moved by how compassionate the kids were and how they really enjoyed doing things for other people. When I came here, working in a much more affluent neighborhood, I still thought it was important for the kids to understand how fortunate and blessed they are."
The honor society gives the school an opportunity to "support the development of leadership skills and help kids understand the importance of service," Walker said.
In January, the students will help lead a food drive at Bellows Spring, Ivey said, but she wants them to come up with their own service project ideas in the future.
"We already see them as leaders, but we're encouraging them to take it a little further," she said. "We want them to realize that even as fourth- and fifth-graders, they can make a difference."
Before the ceremony, some students were nervous, while others were excited, like fifth-grader Dana Barker.
"When I realized there were only a few people in our grade who were doing this, it felt really special," she said.
Fifth-grader Madison Barrett, who spoke about leadership during the ceremony, said beforehand that leadership is "when you take charge and do something good." Being among the first in Howard County to be recognized for scholarship, responsibility, service and leadership, Madison said, "feels like we've accomplished something great."
Cynthia Reed was on hand at Bellows Spring for her granddaughter, Jadyn Howard, a fifth-grader who spoke on the importance of responsibility as part of the ceremony. Jadyn's mother was also in an honor society when she was in school, so Reed was bursting with pride.
"Jadyn's following in her mother's footsteps," Reed said. "This is the second time around for me. I'm witnessing this again, and you can't believe the feeling."
Tia Howard, Jadyn's mother, said she hopes the society will "keep (Jadyn) motivated academically, but also socially."
Jillene Ladle, whose daughter Audrey Ladle spoke about scholarship during the ceremony, said it was nice for Audrey to be recognized for her hard work.
"She does a lot service work and she's a very kind-hearted person," Ladle said. "She works so hard in school, and she's always looking out for kids who need a little extra love."