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NSLS Success Stories, Make a Better World, Personal Growth, NSLS Chapter Spotlight

How One NSLS Chapter Transformed Itself with a Strong Service Commitment

Donea Harrison, the president of the Virginia State University chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), realized that her chapter had an image problem.

She set out with her E-Board to encourage members to become more active while helping to solve community problems in the process. The VSU chapter was able to accomplish these twin goals by tying them together and challenging members to pitch in through specific opportunities and events. 

“We’ve been prioritizing community service and completing these acts of service at least once a week. We’ve noticed an increase in our members at these service events.” 

Influencing Members to Pitch in Requires Planning

Changing any group’s participation level doesn’t happen overnight. It takes strong leadership, as well as a top-down demonstration of WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) to encourage members to conquer the instinct to resist change. It also requires an understanding of strong goal-setting techniques

In the case of the VSU chapter, the E-Board created a firm member objective, allowed members some choice in how to meet that objective, and infused the entire initiative with a sense of fun.

“Our chapter's E-Board met weekly over the summer in order to plan ahead for the school year. We set a goal to achieve over 100 community service hours. We strategically planned to have at least five community service events per month, and asked our members to attend at least one. When at these events, we make sure we’re having fun so our members will want to come as opposed to feeling like it’s a chore.”

Once an organization gains traction on a new project, that newly demonstrated commitment can attract the attention of potential partners, both individuals and other organizations.

Smart leaders know how to expand their own circles to leverage opportunities to help transform the organization and the communities they serve.

This kind of transformational leadership also leads to increased interest in the organization itself from potential members, which was the case for VSU.

“Multiple nonprofit organizations have reached out to our chapter to partner with them on future projects relating to community service. This has allowed our chapter to receive more exposure and more students want to be a part of the NSLS.”

Leadership Skills That Foster Organizational Change

In order to initiate an ambitious community service program, the chapter’s E-Board had to develop fundamental leadership skills. Chief among those skills is the ability to communicate effectively with various stakeholders.

“One necessary leadership skill was clear communication. We had to constantly communicate with the organizations who were hosting the events on how we can best support them. We also had to communicate with our members prior to the event, to remind them that their attendance is needed.”

Another important element to an image- and mission-makeover project is the ability to track progress and hold yourself and your team accountable

“One piece of advice I’d give to other chapter leaders is to hold yourself, your team, and members accountable at all times. Accountability equates to progress.”

Strong communication skills and other core leadership fundamentals can help members achieve large organizational goals. The VSU chapter is now committed to growing its reach even further. 

“Our next goal is to expand our chapter. I believe that if we remain active in our community and have social events, students will want to be a part of us.”

Helping a Community Conquer Food Scarcity 

The VSU chapter quickly recognized a need to address the risks of food insecurity, which affected over 33 million US residents in 2021. That’s why the chapter’s members sought ways to respond to this need through service opportunities. 

“Recently, we volunteered with the Chesterfield Food Bank to distribute food to our community, and volunteered at Calvary Temple Church for their Back-to-School Drive.”

This decision to help address community hunger is reminiscent of another NSLS member who was recently in the news.

Ryan Hamze, of Western Governors University, was named to the Arab America Foundation's 2022 “40 Under 40” list, which honors the contributions of Arab Americans in education, business, engineering, healthcare, and many other fields.

Ryan was recognized in part due to his startup Aabey, LLC, which uses technology and hydroponics to grow crops without soil in an attempt to address the needs of regions that struggle with a high Global Hunger Index rating. 

Putting Transformative Leadership in Action

Donea defines leadership as “being able to influence others and achieve goals, while being yourself.”

Making a substantive change like the one Donea and her E-Board accomplished requires enthusiastic participation from every stakeholder.

Achieving that objective can be transformative, not only for the organization, but also for the leaders involved. 

“My experience as president of this chapter has made me realize that I can do anything and everything I put my mind to. Prior to my presidency, I had a vision for our chapter. I wanted more people to represent the NSLS because it has so much to offer. To see that vision become a reality reassured me that I can do anything.”

Hear Donea's Challenge for Other Chapter Leaders


Today, college students are deeply invested in working toward meaningful improvements for their communities and increased social justice. Learn why seeking a higher purpose and giving back to society are important elements to a fulfilling life.