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Video: National Junior Honor Society students ready to pick up where Walter, Winnie, and Andy left off

Twenty new members of National Junior Honor Society inducted at Heritage Middle School

LANSING, Ill. (April 21, 2023) – “You don’t have to be the same as ‘old Lansing’ to make a difference in Lansing today,” Lansing Journal Publisher Melanie Jongsma told the crowd of nearly 200 gathered in the Commons at Heritage Middle School. The gathering was a celebration of Scholarship, Service, Leadership, Citizen, and Character — the five pillars of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). Students recognized as NJHS members are nominated because they exhibit those qualities.

This year’s seventh-grade inductees are:

  • Foyinsola (Esther) Akinleye
  • Adriel Anele
  • Naareyah Benyosef
  • Alayia Brown
  • Leland Davis
  • Jiovanni Flores
  • Valerie Fonseca
  • Dme Lawery-Forde
  • Shawnyelle Moore
  • Michael Oredugba
  • Darielle Reid
  • Keyanna Tolefree
  • Angel Ughamadu
  • Makayla Wright

And the eighth-grade inductees are:

  • Angel Dominguez
  • Alexander Gonzalez-Gamino
  • Lyniah Meeks
  • Emily Palacios
  • Dyshaun Reed
  • Sydney Williams

As the guest speaker at the ceremony, Jongsma shared three examples of community-building from Lansing history — Walter (Schultz), Winnie (Edwards), and Andy (VanderZee). She invited the students to continue the community-building work in their own way:

For those who prefer reading over watching, a transcript of the address is provided below.

Transcript: NJHS Induction speech, April 20, 2023

Walter, Winnie, and Andy
Almost exactly 100 years ago a man named Walter lived here in Lansing. Lansing was a pretty small town back then — not a lot of businesses and not a lot of people, quite a few farmers. But Walter was the kind of man who wanted to help his community, so he and his father opened a shop along one of the main roads in town. They started out selling things they knew their neighbors needed — shoes, dry goods like flour and sugar, they set up a post office, and they sold insurance to help families who struggled to pay the medical bills when they got sick or when they were hurt on the farm or on the roads. That’s what Walter did 100 years ago.

Almost 80 years ago a woman named Winnie lived in Lansing. Winnie loved children, and she loved books, and she loved reading, so when the Lansing Library Board asked her if she would become the Head Librarian, she thought it would be a wonderful way to serve her community. At that time, the library was located in an old pump house in Lansing, a bare brick stone building that was cold and dark in the winter and hot and dark in the summer. Winnie accepted the job, but she wasn’t satisfied with the status quo. She made improvements to that old pump house to try and make it more comfortable, and eventually she was part of the leadership team that planned and built a brand new library for local families. That was Winnie, about 80 years ago.

Nearly 70 years ago a guy named Andy lived here. Andy liked to paint, and even more, he liked to help other people with things they needed painted. So Andy and two friends started a business on another busy road in town. They sold paint, and people could also hire them to do the painting. Over time Andy added more products and services — wallpaper, and window curtains, and carpet. Andy loved helping people make their houses beautiful, and people loved being proud of where they lived. That’s what Andy did, 70 years ago.

A lasting difference
Walter, Winnie, and Andy were just ordinary people who lived in Lansing. I don’t think they were members of the National Honor Society, but they were hardworking and community-minded and willing to help. When they saw a need in their community, they figured out ways to use the things they were good at to meet those needs. They made a difference in Lansing back then, and our community today is still benefitting from what they did.

Walter’s insurance company is still helping families. In fact, you can still see Walter’s name on the sign along Torrence Avenue. Walter W. Schultz Insurance Agency is still in business, still helping our community, for 100 years.

The Lansing Public Library is still around too. It’s in a different building from the one Winnie worked in, but Winnie’s picture is on one of the walls in the lower level — you can see it there! Winnie helped our community understand that kids and families deserve a beautiful place to keep learning, and Lansing’s library has gotten better and better through the years because of her.

Andy’s old paint store is still in business too. It’s called Towne Interiors now, and it’s on Ridge Road. Andy’s son Don owns it, and Don loves helping people make their homes beautiful, just like his dad did.

Old stories and new stories
Now I grew up in Lansing and have lived here all my life, and I never heard these stories. I used to ride my bike past Walter Schultz Insurance. I checked books out of the Lansing Public Library. My parents bought paint at Andy’s store. But I didn’t know anything about the people who helped make those places what they are. I didn’t know any of that history. It wasn’t until I started working for The Lansing Journal that I learned about Walter, Winnie, Andy, and all the different kinds of people it takes to build a community. There are hundreds of stories — Lansing is an old town with a lot of history.

But not all the stories are from long ago. New stories are being written every day, and new people are part of those stories.

I worry sometimes that when new generations come up in an established community, they think the work is already finished and there isn’t anything more they need to do.

But that is not true.

Community-building work is never finished. One hundred years ago, 80 years ago, 70 years ago, we needed Walter and Winnie and Andy and other people — and they stepped up and found ways to serve. They helped turn a small town into a real community.

Today we need you. We need new generations of leaders and community-builders. We need old-fashioned hard work, but also fresh ideas and fresh strength.

You can do this
If anyone can do this, you can. You are already successful scholars, and scholarship is important. Scholarship is not about being the smartest or knowing the most. Scholarship means you enjoy learning, you keep learning — and that is such an important way of looking at the world. As true scholars, you won’t be bound to doing things the same way they’ve always been done. Lansing needs scholars like you who are willing to learn new ways and try new things.

Lansing also needs public servants. A lot of people start a business because they want to be the boss and make all the decisions. Some people get into politics because they want to be in charge. But Lansing and Lynwood and other towns around here need leaders who understand that we are all stronger when we serve and help each other. Leadership and service have to go hand in hand if you really want to build community. We need people like you who understand both service and leadership.

That’s the nature of citizenship too. Citizenship is more than just being a citizen. Being a citizen of Lansing or Lynwood just means you live there. But citizenship means you are involved in your community, you know your neighbors, you attend events, you shop at local businesses. That’s good citizenship, and our communities need more people who understand that.

Walter and Winnie and Andy were all people of character — but they weren’t all the same. You all have character too — and you aren’t the same as each other, and you don’t have to be the same as old Lansing in order to make a difference in Lansing today. Lansing is a different community now than it was 100 years ago. We face different challenges than the ones Walter, Winnie, and Andy faced. And you will probably notice these challenges as you get more and more involved in the community. In fact, we need you to notice the problems. We need you to ask questions about why things are the way they are. And then we need you to help us think of new ways we can all work together to make things better.

Building the future
Maybe you’ll start already in high school. Maybe when you get to TF South you’ll join a club that’s making a difference. Maybe you’ll befriend a kid who’s getting bullied, and you’ll make a difference in his life. Maybe as soon as you turn 18 you’ll register to vote, and you’ll cast a ballot in every election for the rest of your life. Those are all good ways to build community.

And maybe one day you’ll start a business like Walter and Andy did. Maybe you’ll sell some new thing that people today need, or maybe you’ll invent something new that solves an old problem.

Or you might be like Winnie and work for an old, established organization — and maybe you’ll bring new ideas to that old way of thinking. You might help that old organization stay fresh and strong as it continues to serve our community today and into future generations.

Maybe you’ll run for some kind of political office here in town — not because you want to be important or famous, but because you love your community and you understand that it needs good leaders who are also public servants.

I don’t know what the future holds for you. But I am excited about the possibilities. With young, bright citizens like you who will keep learning and leading and using your skills to make our community stronger, Lansing has a bright future, Lynwood has a bright future, our whole region has a bright future. And I look forward to seeing it unfold and being part of that community with you.

Sydney, Dyshaun, Emily, Lyniah, Alexander, Angel D, Makayla, Angel U, Keyanna, Darielle, Michael, Shawnyelle, Dme, Valerie, Jiovanni, Leland, Alayia, Naareyah, Adriel, Foyinsola (Esther) — our community needs you.

Thank you for the work you have done already to become the scholars, servants, citizens, and leaders with the character we need to be the best community we can be. Your work as members of the National Junior Honor Society is a good beginning. And I look forward to hearing your stories as you write the next chapters of our community’s history.

About the National Junior Honor Society and Heritage

The National Junior Honor Society has been recognizing outstanding student achievement since 1929. In addition to the chapter at Heritage Middle School in Lansing, NJHS has chapters in all 50 states and in schools around the world. The NJHS website says more than one million students are members of a local chapter of the society.

The Lois Harris Chapter of NJHS at Heritage Middle School inducted its first members in 1997. The chapter was named after the eighth-grade English teacher who organized it and served as Faculty Adviser until her retirement in 2001. Candy McLaughlin succeeded Harris, followed by Elise Bozich. Beverly Schweitzer stepped into the role in 2019 and continues to serve.

“NJHS Induction always makes me feel hopeful,” says Schweitzer. “To watch students maturing into capable, young adults who are on the brink of knowing what’s on their horizons is a special experience. Teachers see their students in the process of becoming. It’s quite remarkable! It is one of the reasons that I’m still teaching after 36 years.”

In Heritage’s 26 years of participation, 596 students have been inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, including the 20 inducted this year.

Heritage Middle School is located at 19250 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.

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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.

1 COMMENT

  1. Melanie Jongsma, I enjoyed reading your speech given to the NHS recipients. Very nicely done. Here’s to all the future Walters, Winnies and Andys. Congratulations to our young inductees. 👏👏

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