Caribou NHS elects officers, adapts to meet new challenges

CARIBOU, Maine — The Caribou National Honor Society is persevering amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with its 2020-21 ceremony of swearing in of officers taking place on Nov. 3 as opposed to the end of the previous school year. 

The ceremony, which had few attendants to adhere to social distancing guidelines and is the most recent example of the organization’s adaptability, featured the swearing in of Alaina Quinlan as president, Edie Shea as vice president, Abigail St. Peter as secretary, Alex Picard as treasurer and Cody Waldemarson as historian. 

Class of 2020 graduate and outgoing National Honor Society president Shelby Barnes, who was master of ceremonies for the officer installation, said she felt blessed to be able to carry on the tradition of passing the gavel to the next NHS president. 

“Your elected position is a significant responsibility as well as a privilege,” Barnes said. “The world today, as never before, needs faithful and efficient leaders, and your chapter is looking to you to lead its members.”

Caribou High School Principal Eric McGough said that he feels fortunate that members of the Caribou NHS are continuing to pursue their goals, and commended NHS adviser Valerie Waldemarson for inspiring the students. 

“She’s extremely organized,” he said. “She invests time and energy to come up with innovative ideas to celebrate our distinguished students. We’re really happy with some of the ways our students are engaging in service to the school and community.”

And while the pandemic may have limited their opportunities of holding large events, he said NHS members are working within the school to help newly implemented daily procedures run smoothly.

“A lot of students are invested into the workings of the school,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of these students step up and play a key role in how the school is run during the day. They obviously don’t do anything that isn’t appropriate for a student to be doing, but you see that they have investment and engagement in how this school functions day in and day out, and I think it’s why things have gone so well for us this fall.”

Both McGough and Waldemarson said that while the pandemic has placed limitations on what the NHS can accomplish, one silver lining is that it has helped them learn to adapt to unexpected situations.

“While we’re obviously very pleased with the course offerings and academics here at Caribou High School, we want the kids to leave here prepared for life, and I think this is actually something that will provide them with lessons that will bless them for the rest of their lives,” McGough said.

Waldemarson said this unprecedented situation is providing them with skills that will be useful as they enter adulthood.

“One of the skills adults need to have is multitasking and learning to move with the punches,” she said. “And one of the things we want our students to leave with is the mental strength and fortitude to persevere through these very difficult, and ever changing times.”

She said the NHS students have never had any issues following guidelines amid the pandemic, and that they not only respect each other’s boundaries, but are grateful, excited and motivated to be back as both students and athletes at the school. That attitude has helped morale throughout the building. 

“One thing that impresses me about our students is their resilience,” she said. “They’re better at this process than adults are; they handle changes and new processes like champs.”

In addition to helping the school with new procedures and daily routines, she said the NHS has a number of community projects in the works. One is a community service event honoring two students who would have graduated in the class of 2021, but tragically died before having the opportunity.

The NHS will soon be inducting new members into the 2020-21 chapter, at which point they will begin brainstorming new projects.

“We’re putting our heads together on how we can make a big impact in the community while staying within social distancing guidelines, so that will be part of the discussion when we induct new members,” she said. “They’re also looking at doing independent service; some students have already asked about clearing snow for neighbors and the elderly. To me, that’s part of the upstanding citizenship and commitment, and the service and character that make up the pillars of the NHS.”

The group currently consists of 17 members, and Waldemarson said that will change after the induction ceremony, which they are hoping to hold by the end of the year. 

“It poses a bit of a challenge because we typically have a larger chapter given the number of high achieving and successful students here at Caribou, which poses problems with having safe numbers for the induction ceremony,” she said.

Whatever the future may bring for the NHS, both Waldemarson and McGough said the experience of working with new and constantly changing guidelines amid a period of uncertainty has only motivated the group further.

“When I walk through the school and see what they’re doing in the classrooms and on the athletic fields, it’s incredible,” he said. “This has just been a vehicle for them to find new challenges and conquer them.”

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