TEXARKANA, Ark. -- North Heights Community School recently inducted 20 of its students into what has become Arkansas' first elementary-level honor society.
"You are witnesses to history at our school," Principal Samantha Coleman said during an induction ceremony Tuesday. "This is the first-ever elementary honor society in the state of Arkansas, so we are very happy to be able to do this for our students."
Administration at North Heights began looking into the National Elementary Honor Society program to provide service-based leadership opportunities for students.
To start a chapter, the school completed the National Honor Society's application process, which included creating a faculty council consisting of a chapter adviser and other staff members annually appointed by principals. North Heights also had to find community partners to provide projects for students.
"Part of our focus at North Heights is to teach our students to become good stewards of their community, and we want to raise them up in servant leadership," Coleman said. "That means teaching them all the practices and principles to be an effective community member once they're older.
"And that doesn't just start when they're adults. It starts now."
Chapter adviser Shelly Grice said the program is for fourth- to sixth-graders, and North Heights will have an early college academy sixth-grade option next school year. Out of 25 students who applied for the program, 20 were selected.
In order to be selected, students have to go through a panel review, maintain a grade average of 85 or higher (equivalent to a 3.0 GPA), show leadership in and outside of school and fill out an application for assessing their leadership qualities. Grice said members have to engage in required community service activities throughout the year to remain a participant.
Coleman said the school has already partnered with the city of Texarkana, Arkansas, for an Arbor Day celebration in which students plant trees.
"Our kids were the only elementary kids there," she said. "There were high school and junior high kids there, so our little fourth- and fifth-graders were wide-eyed around all those bigger kids. But it was a really neat experience for them because they got to act in their first service project and see the fruits of it."
NHCS has also partnered with the city's anti-litter campaign, aiming to clean up the North Heights community. The group also plans to partnering with the local animal shelter to provide food and toys, the homeless shelter to provide sanitary items and more planned events with local organizations.
"Our kids have really enjoyed it," Coleman said. "We had speakers come from the organizations to give them presentations, and they told them how even though they're young students, these are things they can help with. There are all kinds of different ways to serve."
Coleman said parents are very excited about the potential effect the program could have on their kids, and the kids are excited to make history.
"Our kids know this is a big honor to them, and they're proud to be the first in Texarkana to make this claim," she said. "So, I anticipate that we're going to have even more students come out and try to apply for this next year."