College Admin Shares PTK in High School Outreach

Dr. Norman Session has learned a lot in his 20-plus years as an educator; but there are two key lessons he’s especially passionate about, and he shares them often: the value of community college, and the value of Phi Theta Kappa.

As vice president of the Rankin Campus and Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center (JATC) at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, Session speaks to high school juniors and seniors about taking dual credit courses, attending a community college and joining PTK.

“It looks really strong on a resume,” he said. “Every leg up you can get on your resume when you’re competing for scholarships — even at the high school level — is going to help.”

The value of community college came early. Session received his associate degree from Hinds in 1988 and then transferred to Mississippi College, where he received a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. After completing his first master’s degree, Session taught as an adjunct instructor at Hinds’ JATC.

Session earned a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi in 2000.

He began his professional career teaching in local public schools. He served as assistant principal at several middle and high schools before becoming principal at Pisgah High School in 2002.

As Session was settling in to his new position, Hinds was expanding its dual credit program to area high schools. He saw the potential, and soon his small, rural school was offering more dual credit hours than high schools in his district that were twice as big.

His students began receiving invitations to join Hinds’ Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Session and his colleagues learned more about the honor society, found out which students were invited and encouraged them to become members. He was made an honorary member in 2016.

“When I first got to Hinds Rankin (in 2015), I saw a list of PTK members with their ages listed,” he said. “I knew every 17-year-old student on that list except for one, because they all came from my high school.”

As Session began talking up community college and Phi Theta Kappa, he focused on the one thing he knew would resonate with students and parents alike: money.

Students attending high schools partnering with Hinds’ dual credit program can earn college credit for free. If they become Phi Theta Kappa members, attend a two-year college, get involved on campus and develop their leadership skills, they often stand to receive a better scholarship offer from their university of choice than they may have been initially offered as freshmen.

“I was a high school principal for 13 years, and I did not know it was fairly easy for a transfer scholarship to be larger than a freshman offer,” Session said. “The average parent and the average student do not know it’s possible.”

But Phi Theta Kappa isn’t only for dual credit students planning to attend community college. Session also encourages those enrolling in universities as freshmen to join the Society and become involved.

“If they’re going head-to-head with other freshmen for scholarships, anything they can do to get an advantage is worth it,” he said. “These are things we need to make sure the students know. It’s our job to prepare them for the next step.”

In addition to money, Session has seen students’ confidence levels grow after becoming involved with PTK and taking on leadership roles. They’re taking that confidence with them to interviews for scholarships and admission to honors programs, and one day they’ll take it with them to job interviews.

Session saw it in his own son, a dual credit student who came to Hinds and then transferred to Mississippi College. His son was named to the All-Mississippi Community College Academic Team and received additional transfer scholarships.

“He just had one year of community college, but he had more confidence going into scholarship and business school interviews,” he said. “Phi Theta Kappa really gets some of them to come out of their shells and embrace or fine-tune their leadership skills, and they come away with a whole new level of self-worth.”

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Achieve Five Star Success

The Five Star Chapter Plan helps you put the mission of Phi Theta Kappa into action in your chapter and on your campus, and provides recognition for chapters that report their annual progress online by midnight January 25.

Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters will automatically update some items on the Five Star Plan checklist including inductions and Hallmark Awards participation.

Your chapter should have set a goal based on the level of your desired involvement in Society programs and reported your progress as you went along. All chapters have a default goal to be a One Star chapter, with the ability to update the goal at any point during the year.

Participation is optional, but many chapters are likely already doing the activities necessary to move up to the next level. Following the plan can result in your chapter being more active and engaged on campus and in your community in addition to receiving recognition for your progress.

Below are the requirements for each level of the plan, in brief:

· One Star — Recognizing Academic Excellence, Chapter Foundations
· Two Star — Organized Chapter Leadership and Getting Started with Honors in Action
· Three Star — Developing an Honors in Action Project and a College Project
· Four Star — Increased Presence on Campus and Increased Engagement in the Region
· Five Star — Further Involvement in the Region and in International Activities or Events

Activities that help you reach your Five Star goals, such as organizing member recruitment campaigns, can also bring you closer to REACH Rewards. This program recognizes chapters that achieve or exceed a 15 percent acceptance rate and rewards them with free graduation stoles. The first awards will be presented this spring.

For more information on the Five Star Chapter Plan, see the online Chapter Leaders’ Guide to Success. Other resources are also available, such as level requirements, college project ideas and the Five Star Plan poster.

Chapters recognized for Five Star Chapter Plan achievements will be recognized with certificates at spring regional meetings and at PTK Catalyst 2017. Every level of achievement is important.

In addition, chapters with the most outstanding chapter projects will be recognized at PTK Catalyst 2017 with Hallmark Awards. The deadline for submitting the Honors in Action Project and College Project Hallmark Awards applications is January 25 at 5 p.m. Central Time.

Be sure to update your chapter’s progress on the Five Star Plan online by January 25 and don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate your chapter’s achievements!