The sound of talking filled the room as kids gathered around the high schoolers. Senior and English Honor Society president Claudia Serrano held a book in her hand, reading to the elementary kids who looked up at her, listening intently to the story.
“We visited the KIN programs at the local elementary schools, either Roan Forest or Cibolo Green, and we sat down with, it ended up being, basically we ended up working with a ton of kids, and we sat down and read them different fairy tales and different books,” Serrano said. “And then we sat down with those same kids and we helped them write letters to soldiers overseas for Christmas.”
Spending time with the elementary students and reading to them had a positive effect, according to Serrano.
“I had a few kids come up to me and say that basically they don’t get read to a lot at home because people are so involved in video games and technology lately, a lot of parents aren’t doing that anymore,” Serrano said. “They felt special, like you were talking to just them telling those fairy tales. And then, often they’d want to take turns and read to us, so we could feel special too.”
This is English Honor Society’s first year of existence at Johnson High School, and it is the only one in NEISD so far.
“Last year, it was one of the juniors who was asking, ‘Why isn’t there an honor society for English?’ So, we decided to start one,” English teacher Gabriel Oviedo said. “We finalized it last year, got officers at the end of last year, started planning, had our first meeting, had the induction, had our first activity and that’s all we’ve done so far. So yeah, this is our first year for us.”
The English Honor Society uses the English language arts to reach out to the community.
“Basically, our philosophy statement is to promote, to foster, rather, a love of the English language arts, period. So, we focus on school-age kids, for example just getting the high school kids involved,” Oviedo said. “We have ideas and we’ve been to the elementary school organizations and we’re gonna see if we can go to the middle schools, and we have a community outreach. But it’s all English-based, things that have to do with writing, or the oral word.”
The society has a goal to prove that English is important in communication and in how you present yourself to others, according to Serrano.
“We’re trying to explain to kids that English isn’t boring, it’s really exciting, and it can inspire you to speak better in front of people around you and how to communicate yourself properly. It’s exciting,” Serrano said.
In English Honor Society, people can see the effects they have on the people they reach out to.
“What I’ve seen in the organization as a whole is people are getting excited about doing one on one things with people in the community,” Serrano said. “A lot of things like donating cans and doing things like that…you’re not really seeing the influence that you’re having. So people are getting a lot more excited about upcoming projects.”
The society is considering as an upcoming project going to an assisted living center and doing a project for the people living there.
“One coming up, we’re planning it now, we’re gonna take some students to an assisted living center, like Franklin Place or Independence Hill, and we’re gonna interview the elderly person there and ask them about the great love of their life,” Oviedo said. And then we’re gonna come back here, and with the other kids, draft out the notes into a story, a non-fiction story about the great love of that person’s life, and then we’re gonna go back to the assisted living center and then read a little excerpt from it and present it to the families of the person. You know, a little memento for the person, so that’s more of like a community thing…It’s kind of neat.”
Oviedo said that he did not originally want to create the English Honor Society because of the number of societies already on campus.
“I just felt that there were so many honor societies- National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Latin, you know- any number of subjects has an honor society, and it would just be another one. But, I realized, that language arts is the basis for all other honor societies- you have to have a good understanding of English grammar to learn a foreign language, and you have to be a good student and part of that is being able to think and write well, and read,” Oviedo said. “That was my idea, that a lot of what happens in the English classroom gets transferred to other subjects, so it’s only appropriate that there’s an English honor society.”
The English Honor Society is planning for the future events and activities that the students will experience throughout the year.
“It’s our first year of doing it, and so we have a lot of plans, we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to offer a scholarship to a graduating senior,” Oviedo said. “We offer opportunities for the members, whether it’s competition or scholarships, community events like the assisted living center, more academic ones, either going to middle school or elementary or you know, perhaps we’ll offer some tutoring opportunity here. Any number of things.”