The Eagles are soaring, snaring national recognition and a brand-new award for community service.
East Jackson Comprehensive High School earned the National Beta Club 2019 Hall of Fame Service Award, the only high school among the organization’s national and international chapters to earn the distinction in the award’s inaugural year.
National Beta is an 85-year-old independent, non-profit, educational youth organization with more than 500,000 active members in 9,000 junior (grades four through eight) and senior (grades nine through 12) chapters. It recognizes outstanding academic achievement, promotes character and social responsibility, encourages service involvement to school and community, and fosters leadership skills.
The Hall of Fame award was created this year to celebrate those National Beta clubs that develop service projects that go above and beyond to benefit their school, community, and state, according to information from the organization.
Clubs were asked to submit information about the project they felt had the most significant impact in the 2018-29 school year.
“While collectively Betas across the nation showed their dedication to service by contributing over 1,168,072 service hours and $1,498,264 to their communities, the club at East Jackson truly knocked service out of the park through their ‘Feeding Our Neighbors’ project,” national officials said.
Working with iServe ministries, EJCHS students spent the second Saturday of each month, beginning at 6:45 a.m., distributing 25,000-35,000 pounds of free groceries to neighbors in need. Beta Club members worked with this established community organization and other community volunteers to help receive the groceries, set up the distribution site, prepare the items, and deliver groceries to those neighbors who came to receive them.
“Our Beta members have worked through freezing rain, cold, and dark in order to be sure the food distribution can take place each month,” said club advisor, Linda Frederick, who teaches Advanced Placement Literature, honors freshman English, and freshman English at EJCHS.
The most significant part of this project, beyond developing leadership skills and the inspiration it encouraged within the community, was the opportunity for each member to see the result of the work, she explained.
“Our students have to look their neighbors in the eye and learn how to have – and show – compassion for their needs. It has been eye-opening for our Beta members, sometimes moving them to tears,” Frederick said.
A team of National Beta alumni selected East Jackson’s project from more than 35 submissions from Senior clubs across the country.
“The National Beta club at East Jackson Comprehensive High School truly epitomizes our motto, ‘Let Us Lead by Serving Others,’” said the organization’s CEO Bobby Hart. “We are proud to call these students members and to have them selected as recipients of this inaugural award.”
Frederick noted that Pastors Jeff and Sherry Grant of iServe played a big part in the students’ work.
“We reached out to thank them for the work they do in the community and for welcoming the EJ Beta students so warmly,” she said. “They provided a great place for our kids to learn how to serve in our community, and we are very grateful for their support.”
Heading to Oklahoma for more
In addition to logging more than 3,500 service hours during the most recent school year, the student group was recognized as a National Club of Merit and a National Club of Distinction, had 27 members compete at 23 different events at the state convention in Savannah, and is moving onto a bigger stage soon.
Three local students will be among more than 20,000 Beta club members participating in the organization’s national convention in Oklahoma City June 18-22.
“Drew Cameron will be part of the science competition, and dancers Ashley Xiong and Meredith Cameron will perform in the opening ceremonies and lead a flashmob in downtown OKC,” Frederick said. She explained that the girls were two of only 12 dancers selected from more than 100 performers in Savannah to travel to the national convention to represent the state of Georgia.
With an average of 50-75 hours of service per member during the last school year, the club also will be honored at the All-Star level, bringing home a plaque and a pin for each club member.
Working as a group, their service ranged from helping set up and tear down the Jackson County Relay for Life event in May (where more than 60 students also participating as a team, raising funds and hosting kids’ games), to volunteering at the Ladies Homestead Gathering “Sheep to Shawl” event, where they helped with the petting zoo and children’s crafts and setting up and tearing down vendor booths.
Frederick said their work at EJCHS included “helping teachers, tutoring their peers during study hall, providing a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast, and attending almost every fine arts and sporting event on campus to show Beta support for other organizations at our school.”
Students also worked individually, finding many ways to serve, Frederick said, by providing meals for local firefighters, delivering medical supplies to elderly shut-ins, helping with local fundraisers and festivals, and volunteering in animal shelters, food banks, and homeless shelters.
On the grow
And the plans for next year – and the years ahead – are rolling out.
Frederick said the club wants to build on this year’s Beta Scholarship Kickball Game, which pitted students against faculty and staff. While they gave three $100 scholarships to graduating seniors this year, they hope to grow the fund to a point where they can award three $1,000 scholarships annually.
The group will start the new school year with 121 members and plans for recruiting more students, including incoming freshmen. New officers have already been part of a summer leadership training and retreat, and math teacher Breesa Crocker, science teacher Amy Johnson-Scofield, and social studies teacher Steve Havick will join Frederick as club advisors.
Like Frederick, who participated in Beta during her junior and senior years at North Clayton Senior High School in College Park, Crocker and Johnson-Scofield are Beta alumni, now stepping up to help students share that same experience.
“My classroom philosophy has always centered around getting kids to realize that understanding others and doing good for others is truly the greatest reward in this life,” Frederick said. “Beta gives me a way to lead kids into that and watch them thrive there.”
EJCHS is one of 10 schools serving approximately 8,000 students in the Jackson County School System in kindergarten through 12th grade.