NEWPORT CITY – Rotary International’s well known motto is “Service Above Self.” In an effort to expand that tradition, members of the Newport Rotary Club are helping to start an Interact Club at North Country Union High School.
Interact is a service club for 14 to 18 year olds. There are 11,000 such clubs worldwide. They get guidance and support from individual Rotary Clubs. North Country Teachers Helen Poulin and Meg Norman will oversee the club.
Rotarian and former North Country teacher Roger Cartee said the Newport Rotary Club has strong ties to the high school and the Rotarians thought an Interact Club would strengthen that relationship. Some of the programs the Rotary is involved with include the Northeastern Vermont Music Festival and the Rotary Basketball Tournament.
“Working with young people helps them with ethics, helps them with community service, helps them with organization,” said Cartee. “It helps them become better professionals, better community people and better parents.”
The Interact Club gives the youngsters a connection to business people in the community. In turn, the teenagers have a lot to offer to the club as well. The teenagers can give the Newport Rotary Club new and fresh ideas and strong legs.
The "Service Above Self" motto is a great thing for youngsters, said Poulin. Students can be grateful for all they have but sometimes others need help and assistance as well.
Cartee, who agreed, said, “Quite often we go through life with blinders on and we don’t see the people right next to us who need some help. Hopefully, if you can start with young people early enough in their lives, you help develop that and Rotary wants to be part of that. We feel it’s important to the community.”
“Hopefully if they feel a connection to their community now, while they’re in high school, that will expand as they get older and they will continue to give back to whatever community they live in and be a part of their Rotary Club,” said Norman.
The goal of Interact is to do at least two community service projects a year. One project is to be community based and the second is supposed to be global. The idea, said Poulin, is to develop global awareness.
The club has not officially started yet and prospective members are talking about a mission trip to Haiti. Newport Rotarian Chuck Kezar found that kind of thinking extraordinarily broad.
“The international aspects of Rotary have projects all over the world,” said Kezar. Members could tag on to projects already in a country where they wish to travel.
“They won’t be alone and will be a piece of a larger picture. That’s important for teenagers who need to have a base.”
Locally, the students want to clean up and paint the downtown storefronts.
Becoming a member of the Interact Club doesn’t make the teenagers members of the Newport Rotary Club. Interact Club is completely a different club and members run it as such. All members of the Newport Club will act as liaisons and provide assistance.
“Hopefully, after they graduate from school, they will decide they want to be part of the Rotary Club,” said Cartee.
The Interact Club, like Newport Rotary Club, will conduct its own fundraising efforts.
Doug Spates, president of the Newport Rotary Club, said the Interact Club is a positive thing to happen and was one of his goals as president. He said Newport Rotary has supported various projects at North Country.
Newport Rotarians plan to send in the request for an Interact Club charter this week.