Clutching a white rose and an unlit white candle in my hand, I followed a procession of 35 inductees into the small auditorium. The audience stood up as we entered the room and I could see my husband, in-laws and five children craning their necks to find me in line. A violinist played classical music on the podium until we took our seats in the front row. An unexpected lump rose in my throat as I contemplated what it meant to be one of the newest members of Phi Theta Kappa—the international honor society at Arapahoe Community College.
When I was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa after two consecutive semesters of maintaining a high GPA, I was thrilled, but didn’t think belonging to a college honor society would be a big deal. The extent of my honor society experience in high school included seeing my name in the school newsletter, sitting in a recognition ceremony until it was my turn to receive a fancy certificate, and wearing a gold honor cord at my graduation.
I had no idea when I attended an orientation session at my school that Phi Theta Kappa is so much more than an organization that recognizes scholastic achievement. It is a society committed not only to the academic development of students, but to the development of their leadership, service and fellowship capabilities as well. I learned that my particular chapter, Sigma Phi, had organized textbook drives for third-world countries, coordinated recycling efforts, and participated in Relay-for-Life and Adopt-a-Highway programs. I knew this was an organization I wanted to be involved in when the chapter president, a woman about my age, explained how her involvement in Phi Theta Kappa leadership led to several substantial scholarship offers, allowing her to transfer to a prestigious private university and complete her bachelor’s degree.
Although part of my motivation in joining Phi Theta Kappa is to qualify for associate and baccalaureate scholarships, I’m beginning to realize that the financial benefits that could come my way are only a small part of what this organization has to offer.
Recently, I made the effort to attend my first bi-monthly chapter meeting. With only seven people in attendance, I could sense that my presence as a newcomer was noticed and welcomed, particularly when I offered to help with Phi Theta Kappa’s regional convention, which will be held at Arapahoe Community College this spring. When the chapter advisor eagerly added my name to the list of committee members, I realized how sorely my leadership skills are needed right here, right now.
On the day of my induction, I signed my name in the Sigma Phi registry, received a certificate, and lit my white candle. It felt good to stand on a podium next to my fellow scholars while my family members took pictures of me, applauded and smiled. But somehow, basking in the light of learning and knowledge is not enough for me. I want to grasp the future and make a difference by leading and serving within the realm of my small influence. Only then can I truly know the satisfaction that comes from honorable achievement.