RANDOLPH, NJ—Putting safety first in light of the pandemic, numerous RHS honor societies held or will soon hold their first-ever fully virtual induction ceremonies during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The virtual ceremonies were or will soon be as follows:

·      National Social Studies Honor Society inducted 46 new members on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

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·      National Math Honor Society inducted new members on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

·      Science National Honor Society inducted new members on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

·      National English Honor Society (NEHS) inducted 52 new members on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.

·      National Honor Society (NHS) inducted 61 new members on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.

·      Spanish National Honor Society plans to induct 16 new members on Feb. 25, 2021.

·      French National Honor Society plans to induct 14 new members on Feb. 25, 2021.

·      National Art Honor Society plans to induct 19 new members at the upcoming spring art show.

In the past, RHS held its annual induction ceremonies in person at the school, with inductees, family members and friends all in attendance for the celebration. “Normally we have a full candle lighting ceremony with special invited teachers and the high school orchestra, but we had to change a lot of that,” explained senior Jake Hart, the current president of NHS. 

This year, however, with pandemic safety being the number one priority at the high school, holding in-person ceremonies was no longer possible. “Because of the gathering restrictions for indoor activities, we had to have a virtual ceremony this year to be certain to practice safe distancing,” explained Sandra Kessell, the NHS advisor who teaches English at RHS.

“Creating a virtual ceremony while trying to maintain the integrity and solemnity of the ceremony was a challenge,” Kessell added. “To keep that tradition, we had the new members create a PowerPoint slide with this information, which was then read by all of the officers. We even included a slide with the oath of NHS for new members to read along with the video presentation.”

NEHS took a similar approach to creating its own virtual induction ceremony. “Both Mr. Olsen—then the interim principal—and Dr. Wright, the Humanities supervisor, sent me their speeches, and we included them in the ceremony,” said Brienne Valvano, the NEHS advisor who teaches English and is also a teacher coach at the high school. “I loved seeing my exec. board come together when planning the induction ceremony. They’re great kids,” Valvano noted.

“The induction is a big milestone for the National Honor Society members, so it was definitely upsetting to know that this new cohort won’t have the same experience as so many members over the years,” Hart admitted. However, he ultimately called the virtual ceremony a success, adding, “The event organizers were able to bring about those same emotions through a virtual induction.”

For both NHS and NEHS, teacher advisors and student executive board officers took time after school to plan and pre-record a personal and heartfelt ceremony for their honors communities. To everyone’s relief, no major technical issues occurred during the actual presentation of the recordings, so advisors were able to thank their students in a glitch-free virtual environment.   

“While it wouldn’t have been my first choice under normal circumstances, it was a way to honor our new members in a safe way during this challenging time,” Valvano explained. “I was happy we were able to celebrate their commitment to academics and the achievements.”

RHS honor societies members plan to continue adapting to the virtual environment going forward. This includes altering planned activities and finding new ways to help serve the Randolph community. “This year, the officers have designed a way to continue that connection,” Kessell explained. “They are currently working on developing enrichment programs with the RMS, SGA [Student Government Association] and the elementary school principals.”

Thanks to the hard work of all participating honor society members and advisors, many of those who had been involved in prior years’ induction ceremonies agreed that the virtual ceremonies for the academic year 2020-2021 had turned out to be just as significant and exhilarating as the in-person ceremonies had been in the past.

Editor's Note: Cecilia DeBruycker and Justin Lawler are students at RHS participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Randolph.