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.
The Powells and Poteats in 1986 at the first induction at Boiling Springs High School, Boiling Springs, SC.
From Vision to Reality
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 NTHS was on its 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.