Since its start in February, Odessa High School’s Spanish Honor Society will be a hard act to follow.
Yesenia Barajas, a Spanish teacher on campus and the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica sponsor, said the group was something she’d always wanted to be involved in.
“We asked if anyone had had the honor society before. They found some patches from way back, but it’s not a for sure thing,” Barajas said.
She added that Midland has offered the program for years.
“I’ve always liked being involved with students and activities and just promoting different activities and involving them in different cultural aspects of the language, as well,” she said.
The process of starting the OHS chapter took more than a year.
“This group of students, they were really pushing for the program because it is something that is amazing to accomplish, especially when you’re at a high school level,” Barajas said.
“These students have taken four, five years of a foreign language. They sometimes even take another foreign language on top of that since they’re done with Spanish …” she added.
Students don’t have to be of Hispanic or Latino background to join. They just need to have a passion for the language, “really want to promote it,” and show their passion and love for the culture, Barajas said.
This first year, Barajas said, 33 students were inaugurated.
“It was a great number. I talked to some teachers and their first year of inauguration, they inaugurated four to 10 members. So having 33 students, you can see how the passion was here; it just need to get going,” Barajas said.
But students also have to have to maintain good grades.
“It is an honor society, so just like the National Honor Society, they have to have an honors GPA. They do have to — do have so many hours of community service,” Barajas said. “Community service is not just anywhere. Community service has to be specifically targeted to the promotion, or the helping of the language.”
They can volunteer at language fairs, the Cinco de Mayo celebration, tutor students who are in Spanish language classes, she added.
Since the chapter became official in February, Barajas required five hours of community service. Next year, it will be 15 to 20 hours.
“We’re forming our committees, so we’re still trying to decide whether it’s going to be 15 or 20 hours. The GPA, if they are an honors student, has to be at least 3.5 and for non-honors at least 3.0,” Barajas said.
“Before we started with the honor society, we actually had a Spanish club that we were trying to get going while we got around with the forms and asking permission and actually getting accepted into the honor society as a chapter. The kids were ready for something like this,” she said.
She noted that it is a nationally recognized program.
Barajas added that there Spanish-speakers in Odessa are from a variety of countries, such as Cuba and Puerto Rico.
“… We want to open it up to so they learn about those other cultures, as well,” Barajas said.
Eighteen-year-old senior Laisha Ramos said Barajas got her thinking about the Spanish Honor Society and it seemed like a good idea, so she decided to join.
“… Since we’re the first group, we’re trying to set some high expectations for next year’s group. Knowing that I’m going to be graduating, I want to set a high standard next year and just make sure it keeps going on every year” Ramos said.
The students also want to see it continue for years to come.
Seventeen-year-old junior Raul Nevarez became part of the National Honor Society this last semester. He’s the first vice president of the society.
“And when Ms. Barajas proposed the idea of forming one for Hispanics, it made me feel like we needed it because this is a more Hispanic school than other ethnicities. I decided it would be important to have a way to represent the majority here at the school and to honor people that are Hispanics,” Nevarez said.
Chapter Historian Lluvia Del Hierro, a 16-year-old junior, said she didn’t just want to become a member of the society, but an officer.
She also is in the National Honor Society.
“I thought it would be really cool to be part of something brand new here at OHS. …,” Del Hierro said.
“Being part of this, my parents can know more and be part of it more. Since Spanish is my first language, it’s awesome to know that I get to study it more and get some praise from it and it looks really good on college applications, too,” she said.
“It’s very exciting. I didn’t think I would do something special like this in my high school career … so it’s awesome,” she added.