Thirty Escambia County Middle School students added a new chapter to the school’s history on February 5 when they became members of the National Junior Honor Society. The induction ceremony, conducted in the school gym, marked the resumption of the school’s NJHS chapter after a year’s hiatus.
Preliminary activities included the Pledge of Allegiance led by NJHS inductee Kaliya Brown, singing of the National Anthem by ECMS choir students. and recitation by Alex Wasden, another inductee, of the school’s mission statement.
ECMS Principal Deborah Bolden thanked the school’s NJHS advisors — Cordia Lee, Jon Durant, John Stephens, Levon Wright and Rhonda Hoffman — for their work in readying the gym for the ceremony and the reception that followed for inducted students and their parents.
Bolden then told the audience of students, several dozen proud parents and grandparents, and others who attended the induction ceremony that the day’s importance wasn’t reserved for the 10 seventh-graders and 20 eighth-graders who became members of the honor society.
“Parents, this is not only an important day for the child, but also for you,” Bolden said. “Without your guidance and support, there is a good chance your child would not be seated in these chairs today.”
The principal also reminded the audience — which included county school board members David Nolin and Coleman Wallace, Assistant Superintendent of Education Beth Drew and Atmore Mayor Jim Staff — that good grades were only one of the criteria for NJHS membership, which also calls for service through voluntary donations of time, leadership, citizenship and, most importantly, character.
“National Junior Honor Society is one of the nation’s premiere organizations, established to recognize outstanding middle school students,” she said. “It’s more than the honor roll; it’s for students who demonstrate excellence in several areas of school — service, leadership, character and citizenship.
“Students, there are many smart people who don’t always demonstrate the morals and ethics that are the very core of what it means to be a member of NJHS. As members you are leaders of your class and you represent the very best of Escambia County Middle School.
“Remember, induction into the National Junior Honor Society is a beginning, not an end. You need to continue to make yourself proud, your teachers proud and your school proud.”
Shamaricia D. Rankins read the NJHS motto and Bryson Williams provided a brief history of the organization before Stephens introduced the keynote speaker, Escambia County Children’s Policy Council Director Karean Reynolds.
Reynolds, who recently became the county’s first black attorney, gave a third-person account of his effort to overcome his upbringing — in a single-parent home where three siblings dropped out of school and he struggled to become the first in the family to earn a diploma — in order to accent his brief but strong message.
“My message today is simple,” he began. “No matter where you come from, you can be successful if you work hard, make good decisions and focus on what’s in front of you. I’ll say it again, no matter where you come from, no matter what situation you come from, you can be a success if you work hard, make good decisions and focus on what’s in front of you.”
The ECMS choir then performed another selection before Racquel Knight, Sheldon Williams, Summayah Tolbert, Aniya Stots and La’Asia Henderson lit the ceremonial candles that represent the various components of NJHS membership.
Tydajahia Coleman, president of the 2015-16 chapter, then administered the NJHS pledge to the 30 newest members before Assistant Principal Toya McMillan draped an honor cord over each one’s shoulders and fellow AP Kem Griffin “pinned” each of the inductees.