At the end of April, the Fountain Hills High School National Honor Society inducted a new class of students into the prestigious organization and among these new inductees was Karsten Dangel, FHHS NHS’ first member with special needs.

Dangel and his mother, Wendy Bruaner, reached out to Cristine Barsema, the NHS advisor, after receiving encouragement from Dangel’s teacher, Sierra Anyway.

“Well, NHS is a well-known club around the school and we are always looking for ways to get Karsten more involved in the school community,” Bruaner explained. “Mrs. Barsema was very receptive to the idea and helpful.”

According to Barsema, students are invited to join NHS in the spring semester of their sophomore year.

“Students must have a 3.5 or higher Weighted GPA,” Barsema said. “Then they fill out a candidate information packet. A group of five teachers on the NHS faculty council look at each packet and select members based on the four pillars of NHS, which are scholarship, character, service and leadership.”

Barsema invited Dangel to fill out an adapted version of the candidate packet that focused more on Karsten himself, who he was and what his interests were.

Dangel’s packet adequately demonstrated to the judges that he was representative of the four pillars of NHS and he received an invitation to take part in the April 29 ceremony.

Bruaner said she remembers being a little taken aback at how formal the ceremony was.

“When I got there I was really surprised at how solemn the ceremony is. There were a lot of symbolic things throughout it,” Bruaner said. “I was so happy to see him walk in with a candle. He has trouble with his balance but he was really focusing.”

Dangel’s favorite part of the night was the responsibility of holding his own candle, but he also remembers how happy his fellow inductees were to have him there.

Starting in the fall, Dangel will start working with NHS on its fundraisers and community service projects. Barsema and Bruaner are also looking at the possibility of setting up Dangel with another NHS member as a mentor.

For Karsten’s mother, his induction to NHS is another experience that shows how great FHHS’ special needs program is.

“The FHHS special needs program is absolutely fantastic,” Bruaner said. “I am connected with a lot of people in the disability community and nowhere in the Valley are they doing what Fountain Hills is doing for its students, and that all starts with Sierra (Anway) and the principal, (Cain Jagodzinski).”