Spanish Honors Society: The Complete Guide

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Officially known as the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, the Spanish Honors Society exists to help and honor students of Spanish and Portuguese. Learning a second language is an invaluable skill, and this group gives students the opportunity to truly excel. Its members are eligible for awards, scholarships, and international travel opportunities. 

If you’re wondering whether or not this organization is a worthwhile pursuit for you or your teen, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to make your decision. In this guide we will tell you all about the history of the Spanish Honors Society and what it offers its members.

Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica

The Spanish Honors Society, also known as the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, is an honor society for high school students who are dedicated to the study of Spanish and/or Portuguese. It is sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, and each chapter is started and led by a teacher who is a member of this organization. 

The Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica was founded in 1953 as the Spanish National Honor Society by teachers who wanted “to recognize high school achievement in Spanish and Portuguese and to promote interest in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian studies.” The organization’s name was officially changed to Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica in 1959. 

Today there are over 3,500 chapters of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, both in the United States and in other countries around the world.

The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese

The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese was founded in 1917. At the time, Greek and Latin were still the most common second languages taught by secondary schools in the United States, with French and German also being more widely studied than Spanish or Portuguese, the latter being almost completely unavailable to students. 

Many schools stopped offering classes in German during the First World War, and Spanish became more popular. Unfortunately, many of the teachers pressed into teaching Spanish were far from fluent. Teachers banded together to form the American Association of Teachers of Spanish in 1917 to improve upon their own knowledge and what they were able to offer their students. Portuguese was added in 1944, but the present-day membership is still over ninety percent Spanish-oriented. 

In addition to running the Spanish Honors Society, the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese hosts the annual National Spanish Examinations, which is an organized competition for Spanish-language learners. These exams are meant to recognize achievement, promote proficiency, assess national standards, and encourage further interest in mastering the language.

Students take the examination online. It measures their communication skills, overall performance, and achievement in learning Spanish. Students who do well on this exam are eligible for awards. We’ve covered these in detail further on in this article. 

These are the stated goals and values of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese:

  • Promote global and local impact through research and scholarships
  • Cultivate relationships and professional development opportunities
  • Empower transformational advocacy and outreach
  • Foster diversity, inclusion, access, and equity
  • Share a passion for multilingual education

Who’s eligible to join?

Not every student of Spanish or Portuguese is eligible. This society is meant for students who have maintained a steady interest and high level of academic achievement in the study of Spanish and/or Portuguese. Students still in their first year of study are not yet eligible. 

Students in the tenth grade or higher are allowed to join if they have been studying one of these languages for at least a year and a half. They must have maintained an “honor average” in that subject for at least three semesters. 

Freshmen who have been studying the language since middle school are sometimes permitted to join. They’ll need to ask for special permission from a Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica director in order to be admitted. 

All high schools are eligible to start their own chapter, and the umbrella organization leaves it up to each chapter to choose how they define an “honor grade”.

Opportunities for Language Immersion

In addition to practicing with other students, members of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica have the opportunity to further their education by traveling abroad. 

Junior Travel Study Abroad Scholarship

Juniors in high school have the opportunity to earn their place in a study abroad opportunity that takes place the summer before their senior year. Students who participate in the summer of 2023 will travel to Costa Rica and stay with host families in Monteverde. The one-week itinerary includes both cultural experiences and volunteer work. 

Participating students have the opportunity to earn college credit for this experience through Portland State University, up to fifteen total hours.

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Spanish Honors Society Scholarships

The Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica contributes over 160,000 dollars to its student members each year. Some of this money goes towards college scholarships, which are available to high school seniors who are members of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica. Highschool juniors have the chance to receive Student Travel awards.

Joseph Adams Senior Scholarships

Every year the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica awards scholarships in the amounts of one thousand dollars and two thousand dollars to graduating seniors. They must be members of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica and have evidence of high academic achievement in one of the two focus languages throughout their high school career. 

Students will also need to submit a five-minute video clip in which they explain (in Spanish) how they plan to use Spanish in their future career. They must also write a persuasive essay in Spanish that details the importance of learning a second language. Most students scored in the 95th percentile on the National Spanish Examination. Each chapter is allowed to submit one senior-class student for consideration. 

Bertie Green Junior Travel Award

The Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica also gives out twenty or more travel awards each year. These awards are for high school juniors who are members of their organization. These lucky students have the opportunity to travel abroad the summer before their senior year, usually in mid-July. 

This award includes the cost of the flight, local transportation, tours, meals, and insurance. Students often stay with host families. Participants have the opportunity to earn university credit. 

As with the senior scholarships, only one submission is allowed per chapter. Applicants must be a junior in high school and have scored in at least the 75th percentile on the National Spanish Examination. They must agree to study Spanish their senior year and take the National Spanish Examination that year as well. 

To apply, students must submit a five-minute video clip showing a Spanish-language conversation between them and their teacher. Each applicant also submits an essay in Spanish detailing how they expect the experience to impact them and/or how they plan to deal with any challenges that might arise. Lastly, they must provide their transcript and a letter of recommendation from their Spanish teacher. 

Spanish Honors Society Awards

There are also awards and certificates issued by individual chapters to honor their members and recognize their outstanding efforts in the pursuit of knowledge. 

Premio de Honor

Sponsors (Spanish and Portuguese teachers) of active chapters are able to award the Premio de Honor to the outstanding graduating senior member of their school’s chapter. Each chapter is only permitted to submit one student to receive the Premio de Honor, which is awarded free of charge. Applications for this honor are accepted by the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica at any time throughout the year.

Certificado de Excelencia

Sponsors of active SHH chapters can award the Certificado de Excelencia to Spanish students or the Certificado de Excelência to Portuguese students who have met certain standards. These students must be initiated members and must also be winners in the National Spanish and Portuguese Examinations. 

Alternatively, sponsors may choose members who have achieved the highest grade point average in Spanish or Portuguese for that school year. The number of these certificates awarded may not exceed ten percent of current chapter initiates. 

Certificado por Servicios

Sponsors of active chapters also have the opportunity to award active members with a Certificado por Servicios (Spanish) or Certificado por Serviços (Portuguese). These certificates are meant to recognize students who have “rendered meritorious service” to their chapter. As with the previous award, the number of certificates awarded each year may not exceed ten percent of current chapter initiates. 

Albricias

Having your work published in a student journal is a great way to add some energy and character to your college applications and future resumes. 

The Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica has its own student journal. Albricias publishes a wide range of content created by its members. Issues include essays, poetry, photography, artwork, and more. Each chapter is allowed to submit five pieces per issue. A maximum of one submission per issue is chosen from any given chapter. Members are encouraged to work together to improve their submissions and choose which ones to submit for publication.

Contributions to the journal are eligible for awards and cash prizes. When the contributions for an issue are chosen, a selection committee will then choose the most outstanding contributions in the categories of prose, poetry, and art/photography. Winners in each category will receive a cash prize in recognition of their contribution to the student journal. Prize amounts are 250 dollars for first place, one hundred dollars for second place, and fifty dollars for third place.

Start a Chapter

If there isn’t a Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica group at your school, you could always start your own chapter. It’s not terribly difficult or time-consuming, but it is a great way to show college admissions boards that you have the drive it takes to succeed in your chosen field. That’s exactly the sort of leadership potential that helps applicants stand out when they’re applying to their dream schools. 

You’ll need to work with a Spanish or Portuguese teacher to start a new chapter, and they will need to be a member of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). Once you have a teacher on board, you just need to fill out an application and pay a one-time fee of 35 dollars. 

Next you’ll need members. Invite your classmates and help them to register. The cost of membership is only five dollars per person. Remind them that this is an opportunity to polish up their looming college applications and really succeed in learning a second language. You can study together, cook international cuisine, and even plan a trip to a Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking country. 

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