The approach of winter holidays can trigger a lot of emotions in people, from joy to anxiety. For the 26.5 million U.S. residents currently facing some degree of food insecurity, it can also be a time of hunger, unmet needs, and impossible choices.
Katie Holmes, advisor for the Central Community College - Grand Island (CCC) chapter, knows firsthand that food insecurity can strike across socioeconomic lines and age groups. It’s what inspired the members of the CCC chapter to step up and try to solve the problem for their community.
“There are so many ways the NSLS has made a positive impact on the CCC community — it is hard to even quantify. However, one of the most notable things would be our food and hygiene pantries. One of the Speaker Broadcasts, featuring Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, discussed food insecurity and it really resonated with our students. They took it upon themselves to petition to get food pantries installed at each of CCC's campuses.”
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How NSLS Membership Leads to Personal Growth
Direct action to benefit those in need helps alleviate food insecurity, improves health outcomes, keeps kids doing well in school, and so much more. It also benefits those who are the ones doing the helping.
NSLS members get opportunities like this to positively impact their schools and communities throughout the year, and as Holmes observes, they also benefit from their efforts.
“The students who join the NSLS are rewarded in so many ways. They not only get to meet and network with each other, but I also believe the students in our organization have a good reputation around campus. Our Chapter President attends the NSLS Induction ceremony every year and says it is her favorite student event to attend. I think that is a testament to what our students get out of the organization. They stand out to our college administration, faculty, and staff.”
NSLS members also enjoy professional and educational benefits. In addition to the over $400,000 in scholarships and grants awarded to NSLS members each year, they gain practical skills and experience that help them in the job market.
Holmes says that’s not all. “I also believe they stand out in job interviews with the addition of a leadership organization on their resume. The students also get to meet their peers through the organization. I feel this is invaluable for so many students, but more specifically those who are entirely online. It gives them a chance to get to know and network with other students.”
Leadership Development Is for Chapter Advisors, Too
Being a Chapter Advisor means Holmes has a unique vantage point from which to observe how the NSLS experience helps her members grow. It’s also had a direct impact on her.
“I have been an advisor for my chapter of the NSLS since 2018, and I have grown personally in the knowledge that I am helping so many students reach a higher potential than they would have without the NSLS. There is something about contributing my time to this particular group of students that is so personally enriching that it is almost hard to define.”
It’s also helped Holmes refine her sense of her own leadership skills.
“My personal leadership style is servant leadership. I believe that I am most effective as a leader when I am serving others, rather than striving to achieve power or recognition.”
Gaining Insights and Learning From Others
In addition to those scholarship funds and leadership development resources, CCC chapter members particularly appreciate their access to discussions with successful CEOs, politicians, artists, advocates, and more, as well as the process of connecting with others to help chart their own paths.
“I think the students get a lot out of the Speaker Broadcasts and SNT meetings. Much like a TED talk, the speakers' knowledge and research impart wisdom to our students that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to get. I think the unique leadership topic of each speaker really serves to resonate with every student."
At a time when connection is so important, the Success Networking Team (SNT) meetings have also proven to be a vital tool for camaraderie and personal growth.
"The SNT meetings are important because, for some of the students, this might be the first time they get to help others be creative about achieving their goals. I feel that collaborative effort is such great training for them.”
Active Chapter Advisors Make All the Difference
For other Chapter Advisors seeking to make the most out of their experience with the NSLS while helping students achieve their goals, Holmes suggests shifting the focus to continuity of support through compassion, communication, and the sharing of expertise.
“I would tell them to think of themselves as a resource to the students. We as advisors are there to encourage and develop the students. We also have the unique advantage of continuity. Students see many different faculty and staff throughout their college careers, but the NSLS has a lifetime membership. Therefore, we are people who can always be there to work with, advise, and develop our members. I have students who have graduated who still email and stop in to see me.”
For CCC’s chapter members, Holmes says her work isn’t close to being done.
“My goal is to keep recruiting more members and remain one of the largest student organizations at Central.”
One of the ways the NSLS can help members grow and reach their full potential is by providing useful tools and frameworks for setting and reaching goals. That’s especially important for students preparing to enter the job market.