Photo by Katie Watt

Youth learn leadership through volunteer program

Interact Club at DTSS

By Katie Watt

If you talk to Marie Brauer without knowing her story, you might get the impression that she’s a local in the Valley, or even that she has this life-thing figured out. But if you think that, then you would be wrong.

Her pronounced German accent is the first hint that may pop your mistaken first impression. The second surprise comes when you find out her age. Marie recently moved to the Valley from Germany last August, and is currently in grade 11 at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS). In just the few short months she’s been here, Marie has become so at home that she can’t imagine moving back to Germany. How has she done this? One of the best ways to get to know the community, she says, has been through volunteering.

“Volunteering makes me feel like I’m giving something back. I like seeing the gratitude from people.”

Most of Marie’s local volunteer work has been through the recently formed Interact Club at DTSS, where she serves as the group’s president. The club, which was introduced to DTSS in January, is one of many worldwide. Interact Club is a service club for youth aged 12-18, and was started by Rotary International. The club aims to strengthen leadership qualities and build confidence in those who join.

“It’s hard to define what we do, but basically all it is is volunteer work within the community,” said Marie.

So far, this volunteer work has involved a local shoe drive to collect shoes that will be sent to Ecuador. They accomplished this in partnership with the local thrift store, and with help from the Colville Interact Club in Washington state. “It took us about three months to do it, but we made a difference and that’s what counts,” said Marie.

Currently, there are 10 members, including Marie, in the local Interact Club. Worldwide, there are 20,372 clubs with more than 450,000 members.

“The members we have right now are consistent,” says Marie, adding that “We’re getting there. All these other clubs have so many members because they’ve had so much time to evolve, but we’re just getting started.”

Neina Flight and Tyson Hagen are two of the consistent members. Both joined the club when it first began. Both were involved with similar clubs at old schools, which is one of the reasons they wanted to join the Interact Club. Both have just entered adolescence, but speak about what they do at the club and why they enjoy it as though this is their career.

“It’s a good opportunity for you to learn more about your community and your peers. It makes me confident,” said Tyson.

Tyson and Neina help manage outreach for the club, and together they strategize how to get youth involved with the group. So far, they’ve found that it’s mostly the students in grade 8 and 9 that are involved in the club, with Marie being the exception.

Regardless of age, however, all members have found that being part of the club has helped them grow in similar ways.

“I’ve learned so much about leadership and teamwork,” said Marie, with both Neina and Tyson in agreement. “Everybody has things they want to do with the money raised, but there’s only a certain amount of things that we can do. It’s not possible to do everything, so you learn how to work together, make decisions together, and how to compromise.”

The club’s knack for teamwork is visible in their plans for future projects. Currently, they plan to host another fundraiser before the end of the year, and over the summer they hope to get started on a project they call “Students for Students.” This project, said Ms. Brauer, will involve giving students better access to food over the summer by partnering with the local youth network to make snack bags for youth.

While the Interact Club is a tightly knit group of students, they’re always looking for more members. Currently, the group meets every Tuesday and second Wednesday at lunch at DTSS. No registration is required to join the club, and you’re encouraged to just show up. To learn more about the club, visit their Facebook page: Columbia Valley Interact Club.

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