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Interact Clubs: Rotary for Youth

The door to community service.

November 10, 2011
Cindy Schumacher , The Maui Weekly

Profound examples of humanitarian service can be found among Maui's many Rotary clubs. Rotarians contribute to our community and throughout the world addressing many of today's most critical issues.

"We develop community service projects addressing illiteracy, children at risk, poverty and hunger, and the environment," said Mark A. Harbison, former president of the Kihei-Wailea Rotary Club and past assistant District 5000 governor for the 2010-11 Rotary year. "We also support programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers and other professionals, as well as vocational and career development."

Since its earliest days, Rotary International (RI) has been committed to helping children in need, and in 1960, the organization took a new approach to youth service. Recognizing the untapped potential of young men and women, RI President Harold T. Thomas urged Rotary clubs around the world to find ways to encourage service among youth while fostering their active interest in the community and offering opportunities for them to develop as leaders.

Article Photos

“On a personal level, Interact has given us the chance to put a smile on someone else’s face,” said Seabury Hall senior and Interact President Megan O’Malley (right). “It is beautiful, because when we all come together we can accomplish magnificent things,” said Megan. “And we do!” agreed Seabury senior Taylor Neuhoff (left, seen here at Habitat for Humanity Golf Tournament fundraiser). • Photo: Paul Schumacher

So on Oct. 28, 1962, Rotary opened a doorway for youth ages 12 to 18 by forming Interact clubs, which have since become a worldwide phenomenon. With clubs in over 120 countries and geographical areas, Interact is truly one of the most significant and fastest-growing programs of Rotary service.

"Working together to make a difference is what happens when young people are introduced to volunteerism and cultural awareness," said Harbison. "Our youth are resourceful beyond measure, and it is likely that their contribution will be significant to our future."

Almost every high school on Maui has a self-governing Interact club that is supported and mentored by one of Maui's eight individual Rotary clubs.

"When young community members get involved in service activities, they grow up into responsible citizens who feel good about themselves, and are productive and proactive members of our community," Harbison said.

Words hardly describe what Interact has meant to Seabury Hall senior Megan O'Malley. "On a personal level, Interact has given me the chance to put a smile on someone else's face, and that is the greatest euphoria anyone could ask for," she said.

Megan has been involved in Interact since her sophomore year. "I wanted to get more involved with the community and help where I was able to," she said. "Interact is the door to community service."

Megan's Interact service began with Seabury's special prom and dances for adults with intellectual disabilities, the Cancer Walk and helping various organizations throughout the year as needs arose.

"Interact is something that is close to my heart," said Megan, who is now president of her club. "It takes a lot of time to get everything organized and get everything together, but at the end of the project, it is all worth it knowing that you helped someone-even if it's just one person."

In the past two years, Seabury's Interact Club has grown immensely.

"We now have branches from our club such as Kids Helping Kids, Art with Heart, Best Buddies and Earth Friends," O'Malley added.

These clubs work together and raise funds for each other whenever needed.

Kids Helping Kids' volunteers play with kids at the homeless shelter and help them with their homework every Wednesday.

Art with Heart is a new addition to Interact this year. "Most of the artists in our school have joined to help-from musicians to painters to kids involved in the theater," said Megan.

They are planning a fundraiser at the end of November in which they will showcase all of their talents. The proceeds will help build a school for special needs students and be donated to the Mana Rescue Home, an HIV/AIDS orphanage in Uganda, and other programs.

"This club does not feel like community service at all-it just feels good!" said Carissa Ratte, Seabury Hall junior, Interact secretary and Best Buddy volunteer. "Bringing smiles to the faces of kids with developmental and intellectual disabilities, who might not ordinarily have the easiest time making friends, is so rewarding," she said.

Interact member Lena Fox is also president of Seabury's Earth Friends, a group of young individuals who unite and volunteer for the sole purpose of keeping our island beautiful.

"We make appearances around the island doing community service based upon cleaning or repairing the earth," said Fox.

Seabury school counselor, Interact Club advisor and journalism teacher Susan Pirsch is truly amazed by all the students out there doing good things. "It is an awesome thing to be able to advise this club year after year," she said. "We see such growth in the kids and their passion to do for others inspires me every day. They always want to do more!"

As an international organization, Interact empowers teenagers worldwide with unparalleled opportunities to serve their global communities and make a difference.

"The world needs this!" Pirsch said.



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