On a November afternoon, the school day was winding down, but the work wasn’t done yet. Some 60 students filled the Lowell Middle School library for an Interact meeting. There, they watched a short video presentation before launching into a Thanksgiving-themed project.
Sponsored by Rotary International, Interact Clubs are intended to help middle school and high school students develop leadership skills while fostering a love of service.
“We initially wanted to do an international club,” explains Sara Guile, a Spanish teacher and advisor to the Interact Club. “Then the principal and Jim White had an idea for a Rotary Club.”
White is a member of the Lowell Rotary Club and has been instrumental in establishing Interact Clubs and Early Act Clubs, which are for elementary age students, across Lowell Area Schools. Currently, there are Rotary-sponsored groups at the High School, Middle School, Cherry Creek Elementary School and Alto Elementary School.
One Group, Three Service Goals
All the Rotary-sponsored groups have a focus on service, and clubs work on projects at three levels:
For the Lowell Middle School Interact Club, that means lining the school halls with decorated turkeys for Thanksgiving, handing out candy bags prior to the Lowell Christmas Parade and selling bracelets to help people in Nicaragua. Students clean out the school cafeteria microwaves every week and have raised about $15,000 over the years for the Pasta for Pennies program that supports children with leukemia.
If there is a need locally or globally, students are asked to consider helping. “They are doing something for others without getting any benefit,” Guile says. That’s an important mindset to foster at a time when much of society seems to focus on everyone looking out for themselves.
White sums the group up this way: “If you don’t have a heart for service, you’re not in the right place.” However, for an estimated 60-85 students, the Interact Club is the right place. While attendance varies by month, the November meeting was filled with dozens of students ready to help however they could.
Club Doubles as Student Leadership
Since the middle school doesn’t have a student council, the Interact Club often steps in to fill that role. The group organizes Spirit Week activities, holds an annual Christmas door decoration contest and participates in community-wide events such as the homecoming parade.
“I like that it’s like a student government,” says Alyson Smith, an eighth grader and one of two club secretaries. “We’re doing good things.”
Anyone is welcome to join the Interact Club. There is a $5 entrance fee which helps cover costs. The group, which was formed about five years ago, meets on the second Wednesday of each month during the school’s seminar period. Meetings may include an ice breaker, presentation and/or service activity. Oh, and there are often cookies too.
Interact Club is a group effort with a full board of students running the meetings with the help of two teacher advisors, Guile and Ainat Garcia. White and Theresa Mundt also help out as the group’s Rotary advisors. Eighth grader Kalea Sobie is the current president while Patrick de Voest serves as vice president.
When asked about her hopes for the Interact Club, Guile said her goal for students is simple: “To learn be good citizens.” Based upon what we saw, the middle school members are well on their way to becoming just that.