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"The Beginning of Sustained Youth Activities in Your Rotary Club"

Interact is an international organization of service and social clubs for young people ages 14 to 18 that fosters leadership and responsible citizenship and promotes international understanding and peace. The name was created by combining the words "international" and "action." Interact clubs are sponsored by Rotary clubs as a program of Rotary International. Rotary clubs provide guidance and inspiration, but the Interact clubs are self-governing and self-supporting. Clubs take a variety of forms, both single-gender and mixed as well as large and small. The membership base of a club can be drawn from the student body of a single school or from two or more schools from the same community.

Each year, Interact clubs complete at least one community service project and at least one project that furthers international understanding and goodwill. Interactors develop a worldwide network of friendships through exchanges with local and overseas clubs. Along the way, Interactors develop their leadership skills and initiative while meeting new friends.

It is sometimes difficult in the United States to have a Sustainable Interact Club. The reasons are many, but one key reason is that United States young adults have more than they can ever want and so many activities to choose from in our High Schools. Interact is necessary throughout the world but even more so in our country because we must teach our young adults the power of service to others with the focus on sharing the abundant blessings we have with those less fortunate throughout the world.

For Rotarians that are interested in service to the youth of their community and the world, Interact is that avenue.

When our club decided in 1992 that we wanted to start an Interact Club it was because we were concerned about all the negative exposure our children were getting. The single event that changed the soul of our club was chartering that Interact Club. Sure, we were very proud, but more than that we began a course of working with the youth of our community that has nurtured other projects such as International Youth Exchange, RYLA, Rotary Dictionary Project, Preserve Planet Earth, Four-Way Test Speech Contest, Rotary Youth Community Leadership and now, in 2006 CHOICES® education in our area schools. Our own huge fundraiser has become another opportunity for our members to "interact" with the youth of the Mountain Home area.

The following is from our experience as well as some from our neighboring club in Bull Shoals/Lakeview, who started a sustained club at Flippin Arkansas a couple years prior to our club. I emphasize sustainable because of the 18 clubs started at sometime in District 6110 only 9 are still active.

The key to starting and nurturing a sustainable club in our District and many others I am sure is as follows:

  1. Be sure that you have Club Commitment both from the Board of Directors as well as members. Commitment in time and money is key! Remember our goal is a sustained club. Your Rotary Club must be committed to the long haul!
  2. Find an in-school sponsor that is committed! Get help from fellow Rotarians for names of key individuals that are part of the High School faculty. Interview if necessary. We are fortunate in that our sponsor in the school is a Rotarian. We also received much help from the school's Principal, who is a Rotarian and the Superintendent.
  3. Order and understand the Rotary International requirements in the Interact Handbook. They are not very strict and easy to meet. Get all the information and use it wherever you can. All information and FAQs are easily downloaded from the www.rotary.org website.
  4. After you have chosen the committed in-school sponsor, sit down with him/her and review the Rotary Information and set some short and long range goals.
  5. Start recruiting; encourage the right students to join. Students that are committed to service. Recruit a broad age range (freshman - seniors) remember the goal is a sustainable club. If you have all seniors, you will have to start all over next year. You need some seniors for credibility; the Principal and Superintendent were again big assets in encouraging the right students to join.
  6. Use incentives. The Mountain Home club offers a $1500 - $2000 Interact Scholarship annually. All "active' Interact members are eligible. This is handled in conjunction with our annual scholarship awards.
  7. Once you have your first meeting and it looks like it will be a go, start planning the charter banquet. Our club budgeted a nice banquet for this event. Rotarians were assigned to pick up Interact students and sit with them at the banquet. We have continued the tradition at our annual Rotary/Interact banquets and or picnics.
  8. Rotarians should attend the first meetings in order to keep the club focused. For at least six months depending on how they meet and how the club matures. Remind the students that this is a service club. To be part of it you must want to and be active in serving others.
  9. Once chartered, splatter the newspapers and radio with articles about the members, about Interact and Rotary. Also continue to publicize everything the club does.
  10. Recruit key junior members of your Interact Club for attendance at the annual RYLA camp in April. These students will be your senior officers for next year. Our Club sends 4 students each year to RYLA camp.
  11. Have fun!

I'm dedicated to new Interact Clubs in District 6110 but will answer any and all questions I can in helping any clubs worldwide start their own "Sustainable" Interact Club.
Yours In Service To Others

Steve Lovick
District 6110 Interact Chairman
Fort Smith, Arkansas

Contact Steve Lovick

This information prepared by Dave Matty of the Rotary Club of Mountain Home, Arkansas

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