BROCTON - For the past nine years, Brocton High School has hosted an Interact Club. Sponsored by the Westfield/Mayville Rotary Club, this organization is unique in Chautauqua County schools.
Dave Travis, club adviser during the nine years, is careful how he explains it. He said, "Although we may not be the first club, the Brocton club is the longest active club in the county."
Early on there was a club elsewhere, but it only lasted a year. The success of the Brocton Club has encouraged other Rotary organizations to sponsor, or consider sponsoring, clubs.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane Chodan
Members of Interact at Brocton Central School sign up for projects during an early morning meeting.
Students are signing up to work at either the Gold Rush or the Tri-Church Ham Dinner. Through the organization, students participate in a wide variety of community projects and in addition sponsor some of their own. The club is sponsored by the Westfield Mayville Rotary and has been functioning for nine years.
According to Travis, Brocton Interact is one of 13,009 clubs worldwide. He said, "The goals are to give opportunities for community service and encourage leadership."
Each club completes at least two community service project each year - one of which should be international in scope. Brocton far exceeds that minimum.
The group generally meets on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Meetings start at about 7:45 a.m. before school starts and last until about 8 a.m. Membership is open to interested students in grades 9 through 12.
Interact president John Nickerson ran the organization's recent meeting. Students arrived in brightly colored clothing as part of "Spirit Week," a celebration of school and class spirit in connection with homecoming. As they settled in, it was obvious this group also has community spirit.
Travis explained that he needed seven people to work at the Westfield/Mayville Rotary's gold rush, a fundraiser that will be today at 6 p.m. at the Westfield Firemen's Exempt Association Hall on Bourne Avenue. At the same time, he asked for seven people to work on the Tri-Church Ham Dinner that will be held today as well from 4 to 7 p.m.
"Don't sign up for both," he cautioned.
Another project in progress is a coats for kids drive, and Travis asked for volunteers to make posters. High school principal Jason Delcamp suggested that posters could be created on computers and then saved and reworked for following years. He also suggested buying a plastic trash barrel to collect the coats that could be used for more than one project and reused each year. Students nodded in agreement.
Examples of other projects the club has undertaken or assisted at are: the pancake breakfast at Applebee's for the Brocton Arch renovation in cooperation with the Honor Society; inventorying and replacing damaged or missing markers at the Portland Evergreen Cemetery; volunteering for the Friendly Kitchen in Dunkirk; assisting the Westfield/Mayville Rotary with their auction; collecting for K-9 rescue in Westfield; collecting for homeless veterans in partnership with the Brocton Amvets Post 868; assisting with the Community Festivals Easter egg hunt; collecting backpacks for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to distribute to the children with whom they work; and the Main Street cleanup in Brocton each June.
Last year for its international project, the club donated to Trees that Feed Foundation which provides breadfruit trees in third world countries. This year, the group is hoping to partner with an Interact Club in Brazil for its international project.
Senior Ryan Mancuso, a board member, has been involved in Interact for over three years. He said he joined to develop his social skills and increase his ability to work in groups.
"What I like best about the organization is the equal motivation I see in every participating member, for we all strive for the same goals in a project and work hard to get the task done successfully."
He likes the fact that through the organization, "community members recognize Brocton as a very ambitious and considerate school."
Junior Morgan Bennett, a member for two years and the organization's secretary, was advised by some graduating seniors to join because it was a great experience.
"Helping others doesn't just have an impact on their lives; it also has an impact on yours. ... Whether it's helping the legion with checking the veteran grave markers, helping the church with their yearly ham dinner, or making the town look a little more spiffy by cleaning it up in the spring, there are always things needing to be done and people who need more help," she said.
The Brocton School District recognizes the community service of its students and actively works to encourage them.
Delcamp said, "Certificates of completion (of a project) are awarded to the students."
He said the volunteer hours are tracked for each year. He hopes to make it part of the students' permanent transcripts.
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