NTHS celebrates what started over 30 Years Ago

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NTHS 30 Yr. Commemorative Poster

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Our story begins over thirty years ago with laughter, friendship, need, and motivation.

Allen Powell and Jon Poteat saw the challenges of vocational education students who were under their guidance at H.B. Swofford Career Center in the small town of Inman, South Carolina, where Allen was the director and Jon, the guidance counselor. They foresaw a critical need to bring recognition to skilled students who are America’s mettle in today’s workforce. As educators, they also realized that CTE pathways engage many more students and increase high school graduation rates and postsecondary success.



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The Powell and Poteat families spent time together in the evenings discussing the need to give recognition to top career and technical education students. As they sat around the dining room table, they embarked on a journey to chip away at the stereotypical attitude toward vocational education, to honor student achievement and leadership, promote educational excellence, and enhance career opportunities for career and technical students. Allen and Jon applied their knowledge as vocational educators and leaders to formulating an honor society.

Communicating their vision with a logo that embodied their mission was essential. Knowing the plumb used by contractors symbolizes stability and trueness, Jon envisioned this shape as the focal point of the emblem for a new honor society. Allen added the eagle for strength, and the seven stars – one for each of the seven attributes that members would embody. Jon’s wife, Patricia, then suggested the banner with the initials of the organization. This rendering transpired into the branding symbol recognized today for the National Technical Honor Society.

Allen spent time at the library researching for the perfect motto, and they all agreed that students should embody seven attributes: leadership, scholarship, skills, honesty, citizenship, service and responsibility. Even the children were helpful in pulling the whole idea together, as 10 year old Andi Poteat ran through the room in her purple dance jacket, giving life to the organization’s colors of purple, silver and white.

With full hearts and little more than a dream, they filed all the papers to become a non-profit organization – the National Vocational - Technical Honor Society had its wings!

Patricia created a small budget and guided the budding organization through each financial challenge. She managed mailings, marketing, and phone calls in the basement of her and Jon’s home, while Jon and Allen continued to teach and enlist partners to promote the organization.

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In a short time, fellow educators and business people who shared this vision joined in, lending their names and influence to promote the National Vocational - Technical Honor Society. Educators could see NTHS at work, advancing excellence in career and technical education, and raising the bar for student achievement. No longer would technical education students be cast as a side line to the academic world, but placed in the forefront of education to meet the needs of changing industry. Collaboration with Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) opened doors and forged partnerships, which still support NTHS today.

In 1997, NTHS Board Member, Steve Greene gave the first $1000 needed to start a scholarship account with the Spartanburg County Foundation. The board named the scholarship program in honor of Jon, who several years earlier had been diagnosed with early onset dementia and was in a nursing facility. For the next eight years, the growth of the fund depended entirely on donations from board, friends and fundraising efforts.

In 2005, NTHS awarded the first scholarships. That year, only four $500 scholarships were awarded, but we were on our way. Realizing more need to provide financial assistance to students, the board of directors agreed that a portion of each membership fee would be budgeted to go to the fund, and in 2007 a total of $25,000 in scholarship monies went to NTHS members.

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In 2003, the National Board of Directors unanimously agreed to change the name of the organization from the National Vocational-Technical Honor Society to the National Technical Honor Society to reflect the views of business and industry toward students in skilled trades. Today, the National Technical Honor Society serves thousands of member schools and honors more individuals for their achievement and leadership every year. The evolution of CTE is making NTHS membership a more popular and viable option for students of all abilities.

Support CTE students and build tomorrow’s workforce.