Since 1946, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and NHS have awarded more than $19 million in scholarship funds to students across the United States. In 2020, the awards totaled $2 million. These scholarships aid students in a number of ways. Advise recently caught up with 2020’s semifinalist recipient, Eliana Hornbuckle, to find out how she felt about winning an NHS Scholarship and how it has helped her.

Advise: Tell me about your background and one of your fondest memories from being a part of the National Honor Society in your school.

I grew up in a small town in central Iowa called Nevada. I attended the local high school there, Nevada High School. Our National Honor Society was actually Nevada High School National Honor Society—NHS NHS—so that was fun. One of the fondest memories I have is that my brother, who is two years older than me, was also a member of NHS, and he got to induct me when I was accepted as a sophomore.

After I graduated in the spring of 2020, over the summer I helped with a painting project and got ready for college in the fall. However, my college—Brown University—decided that because of the pandemic and having virtual classes, they would delay the start of first-year students to the spring. So, last fall I worked part-time, and then I took one class through Brown and one class through Iowa State University. This spring, I’ve started a full semester of classes living in Providence, RI.

So, currently I am a first-year student at Brown University in Providence, attending all virtual classes. Our second semester will be over the summer and then I will begin my sophomore year in the fall. I don’t have a major yet. Right now I’m taking introductory engineering classes. I’m interested in environmental engineering or environmental science, something in that realm. My dream job would be something where I help reduce food insecurity around the world, whether that’s through better transportation or better agriculture production. I’m really passionate about food insecurity and making sure everyone has the nutrients they need to live a successful life.

Advise: What did winning the scholarship mean to you and how has it helped you in your endeavors?

I was honored. Winning the NHS Scholarship meant financial flexibility. Specifically, the NHS Scholarship money went directly to my school, but I got to pick for which semesters I use my funds and how much of my funds to use. I’m able to divide my scholarship and use it as needed over all of my semesters, which is absolutely fantastic.

The scholarship is currently paying for part of my expected summer contributions here at Brown, which means that during the summers, I won’t have to necessarily work for pay. If there’s an internship that’s unpaid or another experience that doesn’t pay quite as well to cover my whole summer contribution, I don’t have to worry about that. I can still accept that opportunity because I have extra funds that I can use from NHS to cover that cost.

Advise: What leadership lessons did you take away from your time in the National Honor Society that you are applying now?

I learned that collaborative teamwork is really, really important. My senior year in NHS, I was our secretary. We had four main officers, and we all worked together really well, regardless of our official roles. We all just hopped in on whatever tasks needed to be done. I’m applying that right now; I’m a part of a Bible study here at Brown, and we all take turns leading, and it’s very much just, whoever has the time to take up that task, they just do it. So, it’s a really collaborative process of sharing responsibilities.

Advise: What is the best overall lesson you learned from being a part of the National Honor Society?

The best overall lesson was the realization that the success of an organization relies on the members’ ability to ask for help and the community that surrounds you. For NHS, we had a really awesome adviser, and our community was very open as well. If we held a bake sale, our community came through and donated. Much of our success came from being in a supportive small town in Iowa where everyone helps one another.

Advise: Was there a particular adviser or teacher in high school who inspired you?

Yes! Mr. Kevin Cooper, our NHS adviser, but he does a lot more than that. He’s also our agriculture teacher and runs the whole Future Farmers of America program. He is such a joy to be around. He’s so passionate, and he makes you passionate about other things. He’s dedicated, works nonstop, and is really focused on giving students the best opportunities they can have. For me specifically, he encouraged and supported me when I wrote a research paper for an extracurricular activity that has now become one of my passions. If he hadn’t been my conscience on my shoulder about writing that paper, I never would have had that opportunity. I never would have become super passionate about food insecurity. He’s really awesome.

Advise: What advice would you give to current National Honor Society students?

I would suggest to those students that they get involved in more than just academics. Get involved in a wide range of activities that make you well rounded. I did athletics and academics; I did music—band and choir—in high school. Get involved in as much as you can to learn what you like and what you don’t like. That is what will help shape you into the person that you want to be.

Advise: What advice would you give to graduating seniors?

I would encourage them to take a chance and apply to as many schools and scholarships as they want, even if they don’t think they have a chance of getting them. I totally didn’t think I had a chance of winning the NHS Scholarship, but I did. So, don’t be afraid to take that risk, put in a little bit of time to complete the application. It might turn out really well.

Additionally, take a chance and apply at different colleges all over the United States. My older brother also goes to Brown, and so I completely applied just because I was like, “Well, my brother goes there, so I might as well.” I honestly didn’t think I would get accepted. But I love this school. There are so many international students here; it’s a wonderful community. It’s challenging but also very supportive. —