For some local high school students, helping those in need is a necessary part of citizenship in the Allen County community. The Anthony Wayne Rotary honored eight such students — Interact Club members from Northrop and Carroll high schools — at their Wednesday, April 26, meeting.
The Interact club, sponsored by the Anthony Wayne Rotary, is open to any service-minded student at Carroll and Northrop, said Rotary President Deb Conklin. “Rotary’s goal is to prepare these students to become leaders and volunteers as adults in their communities.”
Among the individuals at the gathering were Student Rotarians representing seven different high schools — Carroll, New Haven, Bishop Dwenger, Leo, Concordia, Blackhawk and Snider. Each student attends Rotary for one month between October and April, so potentially 56 local high school students attend annually, said Conklin. Student Rotarians are recognized by their respective schools for their academic achievement and service work, making them eligible to apply for annual Rotary college scholarships totaling $8,000.
Carroll’s representative for the month of April, Jackson Kent, spoke at the event, reminiscing on a recent visit from Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “Last week’s presentation with the mayor was great to learn about all the different things the Rotary club has done and he has done in the city,” he said. “The student leader opportunities that we have are really quite amazing for the city.”
Other Student Rotarians present at the gathering were New Haven’s Anika Hoffer, Bishop Dwenger’s Gabby Ball, Leo’s Isaac Brandenberger, Concordia’s Gabriel Kramer, Blackhawk Christian’s Shayla Marwell and Snider’s Madeline Rice.
Members of the Interact club shared the Student Rotarians’ passion for making a positive impact on the Allen County community. For Fletcher York, Northrop’s Interact Club president, extending the opportunity of service to everyone is necessary to keep the organization going. “Everyone’s welcome to join,” she said. “Everyone always has something to bring and give to the club, so it’s really important that we keep that [invitation] open.”
Interact members honored at the event included Northrop’s Courtney Louive, Hailey Richards and York, as well as Carroll’s Amber Boggs, Carsyn Houser, Will Blodgett, Parker Bull and Ethan Radke.
The Interact Club’s main focus is community service. “We volunteer, we come up with projects, we fund raise,” York said. “We just finished our Teens for Hygiene program in which we raised over 800 hygiene products for the FWCS Clothing Bank. The club also gathered more than 4,000 food items to be donated to Community Harvest [Food Bank] through the Canstruction project.”
Each Interact Club carries out two service projects each year, Carroll focusing on the Northwest Allen County district and Northrop helping out in downtown Fort Wayne, said Carroll President Will Blodgett.
Northrop’s Interact Club supports projects including Canstruction, the hygiene project, a coat drive and Jeans for Teens for homeless teenagers, said Richards, a senior club member from Northrop.
Richards recommends that others join Interact. “I think it’s helped me realize the help that we can give to Fort Wayne, and it doesn’t even need to be monetary,” she said. “Just your time is all you need, and I think it’s a great club.”
Louive, another Northrop senior, said she has been involved in Interact for several years. “It’s a really great club to be in if you like to volunteer and be involved in the community,” she said. “We raised money for Honor Flight,” she said, talking about the joy she finds in going to Fort Wayne International Airport to welcome veterans back from their day in Washington, D.C. “We also volunteer as a group, such as at Special Olympics,” she said.
Louive said she will be busy in college and medical school the next few years, but left open the possibility of joining Rotary a few years down the road. She encouraged other teens to get closer to Rotary through Interact. “I would definitely join this, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to give back and help others, because that’s what we’re about,” she said. “We’re all friends together, and it also builds a network within the community.”
Interact members from both Carroll and Northrop also perform service work at soup kitchens, as well as organizing their own fundraising events, said Blodgett. In addition, each Interact club participates in an international service project. This year, Carroll hosted a basketball tournament, inviting students from other high schools to participate. The profits from the event were donated to a well project in Africa.
“Ultimately our goal is to better our community,” said Blodgett. “Our mission statement is ‘A better community makes a better world,’ so it’s really just about extending kindness everywhere and trying to make the world a better place.”