St. Joseph Catholic School has a new program to honor its most outstanding students – the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS).

Sylvia Garcia, advisor for the chapter, was notified recently the school’s application to begin this new national student recognition program was approved by the national office and they may now undertake the process of selecting new members in the 2008-2009 school year.

Garcia explained that she has to first train staff members on how to select students, based on the NEHS criteria.

“Once that happens, we can then begin inducting students,” Garcia said.

St. Joseph School will be designated as a "Founding Chapter of NEHS" joining elementary schools around the nation in establishing a program to promote excellence in academic achievement and involvement in leadership and service for the nation's youngest students.

More than just an honor roll, NEHS engages its members in service activities and leadership development that help strengthen the programs for all students at the school and improve life in the community.

“Part of the philosophy at St. Joseph Catholic School is that value systems take shape in a person, so each child's growth is dependent on the love, sharing and support of the whole Christian community,”  said Mary Sandoval, principal of St. Joseph School. “It is also every person's responsibility to develop their God-given gifts and talents and share them with the community to make the world a better, place. NEHS is one way that St. Joseph School students will be able to develop these talents and give back to the community.”

NEHS is being developed as a program of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in cooperation with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

“We are proud to recognize St. Joseph School as a new member of our Honor Society network,” said Gerry Tirorzi, executive director of NASSP. “The decision to bring NEHS to their campus is an indication of a commitment to acknowledging the hard work of high achieving and well-rounded students. It also signals support for the core values of the Honor Society – values that we believe enhance the life of every member and the entire school community.”

NASSP also sponsors the National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society, and with the creation of the new NEHS, establishes student recognition programs for students in all levels of American education, elementary, middle, and high school.

At the local level, chapters of the National Elementary Honor Society are supervised by a faculty adviser.

Garcia will be charged with supervising the selection of new members and inducting them at a special ceremony. A full description of the criteria for membership and the process for selection will be made available to all students, parents and staff as the 2008-2009 school year develops.

In addition once members are selected, the chapter will organize service projects and other activities that support the purposes of the organization.

Reporter Brenda Poe contributed to this story.