Students in the St. James School District are being given an opportunity to expand the ways they show off their excellence through a new club being implemented on campus. 

Students in the St. James School District are being given an opportunity to expand the ways they show off their excellence through a new club being implemented on campus.

St. James Superintendent Dr. Merlyn Johnson, has previous experience working with the Beta Club, a national organization dedicated to promoting academic achievement, character and leadership amongst students. Dr. Johnson said he’s previously sponsored a Beta Club and is confident about the club enriching the lives of students as well as the community in which they live.

“Southern Missouri has a lot of participation in Beta Club,’ he said. “It’s been a very successful organization.” Dr. Johnson explained the club will typically have community service projects, with students dedicating their time to improving their community. One of the first projects being lined up for the St. James Beta Club is cleaning up roadside trash, working alongside Missouri Department of Transportation. Dr. Johnson said the sponsors for the club are already looking at initiatives beyond that as well, speaking to different local businesses about potential beautification projects.

Beyond the ability to help improve their community, Dr. Johnson said there are several benefits for the students who join the club.

“The big bonus for the Beta Club, in my opinion, is the state convention where kids are able to go and demonstrate their achievements and how good they are at academics,” he said. There are also competitions for dancing, music, robotics and other areas where kids are able to show off their skills and talents. Students compete with others from Beta Clubs around Missouri.

“If they achieve at a certain level at state, they are able to go to nationals and compete against students from all over the United States,” Dr. Johnson explained. He said this is something National Honor Society, an student organization with similar goals, does not currently do.

“Most importantly,” he said. “there’s some great scholarship opportunities for kids who are involved in the Beta Club.” Dr. Johnson explained when he served on the State Beta Club Council, they annually awarded a four-year scholarship to select universities in the state.

To take part in the organization, students will have to make good grades while exemplifying leadership and strong character. Teachers will help evaluate student’s character, making sure to mark which students have proven these elements in class.

Although these qualifications might seem daunting, Dr. Johnson stressed they shouldn’t be intimidating.

“Let’s say a kid is a junior and they did something their freshman year—I don’t think that would prevent them from being in the club,” he explained.

The club is still in the process of finalizing the invitations for students proven to be eligible, and an initiation should take place at some time in October, according to Dr. Johnson. The club will have a senior level at the high school, and a junior level at the middle school. Dr. Johnson said the two will work together to help provide consistency for the students.

The state conference for the high school Beta Club students will take place in December, so once members are finalized they will have to hit the ground running in order to begin implementing projects and decide who is going to compete in the different competitions. The middle school conference will take place in March, giving those students more time to prepare.

The sponsors for the high school and middle school Beta Club levels are not paid a stipend for their efforts, according to Dr. Johnson. Everyone involved is striving to increase the amount of opportunities available to students.

“I’ve seen the Beta Club do things in school districts,” Dr. Johnson said.

The Beta Club has been around since 1934, and according to their website, currently boasts more than 500,000 active members with more than 8,750 clubs. The club originated in Spartanburg, South Carolina, founded by Dr. John W. Harries, a professor at Wofford College. Several well-known individuals have been a part of the club according to them, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and basketball player Kevin Durant.