Finding a place of belonging while attending an online college is possible and empowering, newly inducted members of Rio Salado’s National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) chapter noted during the 2023 induction held in June.
These aspiring leaders from various walks of life came together at the college’s Conference Center and online during the event to meet one another, inspire one another and continue their journey toward personal and professional growth.
Blake Stokes, a part-time student and restaurant manager, provided the student address. Stokes, who began his education with Rio in 2018, said he initially viewed NSLS as a resume filler. However, his perspective shifted as he discovered the support, networking, and connection the organization offered.
He shared, "It really helps me to stay engaged since we are an online school. Making connections makes the college experience feel more real. It's not just me reading online lectures and submitting online assignments; it's real people and real things to do. It makes it a lot more fulfilling."
NSLS is a national organization that began in 2001 with more than 1.8 million members nationwide. The organization provides leadership to help students “achieve personal growth, career success, and empowers them to have a positive impact in their communities,” according to the website. Since Rio’s chapter began in 2013, more than 900 students have joined as members and 300 have taken the steps necessary to be inducted, including online workshops and webinars.
This year, the group did a number of projects including serving at St. Mary's Food Bank, My Starving Children, and Midwest Food Bank, as well as conducting a donation drive for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Month in November. Students also participated in Rio Salado’s Dash with Splash 5K/10K this spring.
Fellow inductee Bria Meeks is a nursing student who is working on her prerequisites at Rio and began a master’s degree at Grand Canyon University in May. She received an invitation in the mail to join NSLS. Despite her busy schedule, she recognized the importance of networking and the benefits it would bring once she graduated. She also encouraged other online students to continue in their education.
"Trust the process and believe in yourself,” she said. “If you have your mind set on something, stick to it. Don't let a letdown or failure stop you from trying to achieve."
Rio Salado Vice President of Strategy and Advancement Janelle Elias provided the keynote address. She challenged the students to define leadership beyond the word "lead" and emphasized the importance of responsibility and fostering trust, integrity, and understanding.
"Embrace this opportunity with responsibility," Elias said. "I have no doubt that you will all go on to achieve great things and make a positive impact in whatever path you choose to follow."
The induction included recognition of member and recent graduate Antonette Pearson, who completed the NSLS Executive Certificate program, the first Rio Salado student to do so.
NSLS membership is by invitation only. Students will receive an invitation from the college when they meet the GPA and credit completion criteria. Once they join, they must complete the following steps to become an inducted member:
- Leadership Training Day
- Three Success Networking Team meetings (SNTs)
- Three speaker broadcasts