On Saturday, Oct. 18, while most teenagers were sleeping in, roughly 25 Liberty County High School students gathered together to clean up a section of Liberty County’s waterway as part of the Rivers Alive project.
These students volunteered their day off to pick up debris and litter with no expectation of reward or praise for their actions. But, according to LCHS senior Madison Preston, that’s what being a member of the Interact Club is all about.
“It’s not really for anything but just that feeling you get when you do some community service,” she said.
It is this notion of “service above self” — the motto of both the Interact Club and its parent organization, the Rotary Club — that drives students like Preston to participate in weekend volunteer work.
“It was a fun way to hang out and actually do something productive,” she said. “I was going to watch TV that day, but, you know, I wanted to go clean up the river.”
Teens describing volunteer work as “fun” may not be common, but it is a characterization expressed by many of Preston’s fellow Interact members.
“We all really like each other and we’re all really good friends, and, you know, it’s fun,” said LCHS senior James Varnum, who serves as the club’s co-president along with Preston. “We get to kind of bond doing these projects, and that’s really good for all of us. It gives everybody something to do.”
Although LCHS has had an Interact chapter in times past, the club lapsed in recent years, according to the club’s faculty adviser, Kathryn Walden. But when Preston saw the Interact Club banner hanging in Walden’s classroom, her interest was piqued.
“We didn’t even know what it was,” Preston said. “We just saw the sign and said, ‘What is that? We want to be in that.’”
“I had to explain what Rotary was,” Walden added.
Preston said that once Walden explained the premise of the club and its requirements, she and her friends began inviting others.
“I thought it was a really good idea, because … a lot of us take super-hard classes, and it’s hard to, you know, get community service on top of those classes,” Varnum explained. “But with this … we have a club that we can all take turns and do it together, and it helps us really centralize on not just helping our school but people around our school as well.”
Liberty County High is not the only area school with an Interact chapter. In fact, both Bradwell Institute and First Presbyterian Christian Academy have active clubs.
Michelle Roberts, an FPCA senior, has been the president of her school’s Interact Club for the past four years. In fact, she was solely responsible for reviving the lapsed club.
Roberts said she was digging through old yearbooks when she learned about Interact.
“I saw canned food drives going on in yearbooks,” she remembered. “It was amazing. I saw different events going on, and I said, ‘Why don’t we still have this?’ So I went to (FPCA Headmistress Shannon Hickey) and pestered her for a little bit, and we got it done.”
Although the service requirement for active Interact chapters is one foreign and one domestic project per school year, FPCA’s club goes well beyond that minimum. Roberts said the club tries to do at least one service project per month.
“We will be holding a food drive … for Thanksgiving,” she said, adding that the club also has plans for both international and domestic service projects in December.
Over at BI, guidance counselor Brandi Helton has been advising an Interact chapter for the past six or so years. Like FPCA and LCHS’ clubs, BI’s Interact temporarily had lapsed before being revived by interested students.
Both BI and LCHS’ Interact clubs recently held canned-food drives in conjunction with Operation Hinesville Child, and all three chapters plan to work together for the annual Dodd-Brown Christmas Party, sponsored by the Hinesville Rotary Club.
“We’re going to help hand out wreaths for Warriors Walk in December,” LCHS Interact Club Secretary Mia Campbell said. “We’re planning on doing Operation Christmas Child … We also plan on decorating the Christmas tree for the school.”
Walden and Hickey both spoke about the motivation demonstrated by the students of Interact.
“I really don’t have to do much,” Walden said. “They take care of it themselves.”
“I’m just here to tie up loose ends,” Hickey said. “It’s really student-motivated and student-driven.”
“It’s a great way to interact — no pun intended — with our school, better our school and better our community,” added LCHS senior and Interact Club Vice President Charlotte Norsworthy. “It’s also a great way to teach those who are in the club and those who are observing the club from a different view, you know, what future America is learning and the morals that we need to develop that aren’t necessarily being taught in other places.”
Members also expressed appreciation for the friendships they’ve forged through the club.
“We’re always really busy, and I would not be able to find time to come hang out … if it wasn’t for this club,” said Tristan Sutton, LCHS Interact Club treasurer. “Through this club, it’s really been able to help me build relationships with other students around me.”