By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications 

Anna Maria students who attended this year’s National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) Conference in New Jersey gained many connections and experiences but also left a very positive impression on other NSLS chapters and attendees which resulted in scholarships and student ambassadorships.  

The NSLS is the nation’s largest leadership honors society. It focuses on developing the next generation of thoughtful leaders through workshops, motivational speakers, and conferences. Anna Maria College’s NSLS chapter was established in 2018 and has inducted 425 students since its founding.  

Forensic criminology major John Kelly ‘24 wears many hats on campus as Class President, Vice President of AMCares, an Orientation Leader, and an Admissions Ambassador, however; it is his role as NSLS President which has helped him evolve as a leader. 

Kelly’s journey with NSLS first began when he was nominated into the program, then he worked his way up from Vice President to President. While there are numerous responsibilities and meetings that come with being a chapter president of a national society, Kelly truly enjoys the sense of teamwork and development.  

“I enjoy being in this position a lot. My goal is to develop student leadership and help them find themselves in who they are and let them know that leadership is something that you can always develop yourself because I know for me that I never expected to be in my current position,” Kelly said about being NSLS President, “It definitely has its moments of challenge and I think that’s what allows you to become a better president, being able to step back and realize what your chapter needs and support them from there.” 

Besides the sense of community, the benefits of being an NSLS member include: access to a job internship bank, motivational speaker broadcasts, Motivational Monday events, conferences, discounts from partnering businesses, letters of recommendation, and the opportunity to apply for scholarships. 

During this year’s NSLS Conference, Kelly was the proud recipient of one of NSLS’ $1,000 scholarships, a moment that completely shocked him as he made his way on stage.  

“Hearing my name get called for the scholarship and being one of 12 people to win the scholarship was absolutely mind-blowing,” he said, “Seeing everybody standing up and applauding and seeing all the new friends I made as well as the friends I brought with me, cheering me on, and realizing that the work that I did was recognized was absolutely amazing. I am still shaken up that I won it.” 

The future looks bright for Kelly who is getting ready to start an internship with the Worcester District Attorney’s Office and start a new chapter of the American Cancer Society on campus.  

Kelly believes that the skills learned at the NSLS are beneficial for everyone, “For any leader, for any person, even if you’re just a participant or a bystander developing yourself to become a better person, that is what the Leadership Summit focuses on. The goal is to level yourself up and to look at the bigger picture and see what can I do to raise myself? What can I do to increase my resume, my portfolio, myself as a person, and my role in the community around me?” 

Janmary Plaza Sepulveda ‘25 is a social work student who is a proud member of NSLS which she describes as “A huge community that helps you become a better leader.” 

From the moment that she set foot into the venue; Plaza Sepulveda knew that the two-day leadership conference would be a transformative experience for her. She was happily overwhelmed by all the NSLS members who arrived from all over the United States and by the notable motivational speakers such as Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC and Dr. Rebecca Heis who shared their perspectives on what it means to be a leader. In the past, leaders such as President Barrack Obama, President Bill Clinton, and the Dalai Lama have presented to NSLS students.  

“The conference was so inspirational, and the energy felt so positive,” Plaza Sepulveda said about the event. 

In addition to the practical workshops and leadership experiences, Plaza Sepulveda was surrounded by a uniting sense of community whether it was during the road trip with her fellow Anna Maria student to New Jersey or when a group of NSLS students who just met explored New York City together. 

However, one community gathering turned into a new opportunity for Plaza Sepulveda. Plaza Sepulveda who was born in Puerto Rico and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Meanwhile, NSLS is growing and is expanding into Colombia. While Plaza Sepulveda was conversing in Spanish, a group of Colombian students heard her and quickly formed one big, group discussion. Plaza Sepulveda had an amazing time talking to them and answering their questions about being a member of NSLS.  

After speaking with her, the Colombian chapter of NSLS asked Plaza Sepulveda and several other Anna Maria students, to be Student Ambassadors for Colombia to help mentor the new fledgling chapter of NSLS.  

“Latinos like are so close. It was just amazing how close we got in just one 15-minute conversation,” Plaza Sepulveda said about the Conference, “It’s crazy because I never thought I was going to be a member of the NSLS. I never thought I was a leader. I never thought I was going to be the IT Coordinator for the NSLS or that I would be invited to a Leadership Conference. It was just an amazing experience, and I did not want to leave.” 

For more information about Anna Maria’s NSLS Chapter visit: