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Graduating Seniors Build Strong Foundation for Elba's Interact Club

The problem many communities face is the question of how to encourage pro-social behaviors -- voluntary actions intended to benefit others -- by our youth.

One high school student in Elba took it upon himself to create such an environment for himself and his peers by establishing a renowned international club at his school. Vincente Jiminez was inspired to create an Interact Club at Elba High School after attending a leadership-building event hosted by Rotary.

The Interact club is a branch of Rotary designed for teens. Rotary, a club dedicated to uniting citizens for the common good, sponsors a program called Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA).

If you are selected to participate in RYLA, you will have the opportunity to discuss leadership, service and career opportunities, and current ethical and social issues. The result is that these students return to their schools and communities motivated to take on additional leadership roles and to find additional ways to serve.

The RYLA program had a significant impact on Jiminez who brought the Interact Club to Elba High two years ago. He then, rightfully, became the club's first president. Laurie Chapman, Rotary sponsor of Elba’s Interact club, said that Jiminez “came back real excited about it and wanted to start a club” after he attend RYLA.

Chapman and Buffy Lusk, the Interact Club school sponsor who also happens to be a member of Rotary, helped him to start the group at Elba High. After signing up their first 20 members and sending in the paperwork, the group was chartered through Interact International.

This was the beginning of the Interact Club at Elba High School, which is committed to community service among youth.

Jiminez spoke no English at all when he moved to the area from his home in Mexico six years ago. Despite this challenge, he was able to bring a community-oriented club to his local high school. This past year, one of the Rotary member’s wife helped Jiminez gain American citizenship.

Soon he will be naturalized, and he will be the first member of his family to do so. Now he is helping his younger siblings go through the process of obtaining citizenship.

As the school year ends, Jiminez and other members of the Interact Club are planning for the end of another school year. During their last meeting, next year’s officers were elected and scholarship opportunities were discussed.

Club members acknowledged that they will need to recruit future students into the club, since a majority of the Interact Club are seniors who will be graduating.

But beyond taking care of business, Interact Club members also discussed possible projects for the summer, including fixing up Mrs. Buffy Lusk's dance studio in the downtown area and assisting with the Rockin' the River festival to be held in downtown Elba June 4.  This festival is hosted by Restoration 154, a nonprofit organization in Elba committed to revitalizing the community.

The club learned more about Restoration 154 initiatives, including their plans to apply for grants to improve the high school band room. Interact Club members plan to help with this project. They also discussed taking action to help bring recycling bins to the school.

The goal of the Interact Club is to carry out community service projects and to help with other initiatives going on in the community. Mary Lacy Lusk will carry on the legacy of Jiminez, who will soon be graduating from Elba High School, as next year's Interact president.

Chapman, the Interact Club Rotary sponsor, said she believes Lusk will make an excellent president because "she's a real go-getter and she's a hard worker. She never slows down."

The Interact Club at Elba High School looks to have a bright future as they build on the foundation Jiminez and other graduating seniors created.

Tags: Elba

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