Students at Sierra Ridge Middle School in Pollock Pines are learning important life lessons and skills at an early age.
Chartered in November 2010, the Sierra Ridge Interact Club is now in its third year, open to seventh and eighth graders 12 years and older.
Prior to 2010, students were required to be at least 14 years old to be involved in an Interact Club, limiting involvement to high schools. However, with the new lowered age requirement, clubs are springing up in more and more middle schools across the country.
The 25-member strong Sierra Ridge Interact Club is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pollock Pines-Camino. The Rotary advisor to the club is Rotary Assistant Governor Carol Abbanat; the faculty advisor is Sierra Ridge Principal Rich Callaghan.
The club focuses on school service, community service and international service. This year’s school service project is the painting of benches throughout the school yard.
The club’s international service project is to create and distribute Water Pasteurization Temperature Indicators (WAPI). These devices are constructed using a plastic tube and a soy-based wax that, when placed into certain liquids, will melt when that liquid has reached the temperature of pasteurization.
“These little kits that we make go to primarily third-world countries that have poor sanitation,” Abbanat said. “Some also went to Haiti after the earthquake when they were having sanitation issues and terrible problems with their water supply.”
Community service for the club spans a wide range of programs and events.
Club members lend helping hands at National Night Out, Art in the Orchard, Toys for Tots, different community benefit fundraisers, Rotary donation fundraisers, Cards for Heroes and a monthly community breakfast, among much more.
The community breakfasts take place on the second Saturday of the month starting in September and running through May. Each breakfast celebrates a different holiday or occasion, complete with decorations made by club members.
April’s breakfast recently took place on the 13th in celebration of the 54th birthday of Fran DuChamp, a Pollock Pines resident who has made herself a champion for the Interact Club and the work they do in the community.
DuChamp said the students sang the happy birthday song to her when she walked through the doors and she was even given her own birthday table, complete with a birthday tablecloth.
“They are a wonderful group of young people,” she said. “Just look at the energy they have.”
Teary-eyed from the live flute player during the breakfast, DuChamp stated that “more businesses should be run by young people.”
Club members arrive bright and early the morning of the monthly breakfasts to do all of the prep-work. They prepare all of the food and drinks that are offered, set up the room including decorations, collect money at the front door, serve the food and drinks and clean up.
“Part of Interact at this age is to help them learn how to be leaders and how to be responsible for whatever their commitment is,” Abbanat said.
Not only do the students take on those responsibilities, they do so with no regrets or expectations.
Eighth grade club members Megan Seed, president; Jake Higginbotham, vice president; and Kayleigh Bunce, secretary, all said they enjoy being part of the Interact Club because they are able to help people while having fun with club members who have become so close to them.
“I like how we are almost a family,” Seed said.
One of the advantages to creating such close friendships through this club, as Higginbotham said, is that they all get to hang out with each other at the events and programs they participate in, which he really enjoys.
This sense of camaraderie and the fun that comes hand-in-hand with member responsibilities and duties is something all members of the club experience.
“Some new eighth graders who just joined the club this year say that they wish they had been in the club before,” Bunce said.
The Interact Club will host its final community breakfast for the school year on Saturday, May 11, in celebration of Mother’s Day.
The breakfast will be held at the Pollock Pines-Camino Community Center in Pollock Pines. The breakfast lasts from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Cost is $1 for seniors, $3 for individuals or $7 for a family. They serve pancakes, sausage, juice, coffee and hot chocolate.
These community breakfasts and other events offer good learning experiences for the students involved in the Interact Club. They are able to learn new skills, develop a social conscience and truly make a difference. Not to mention the great résumé builder that the Interact Club will provide for each of them.
“They want to make a difference; in the community, in the world and this club helps provide that opportunity,” Callaghan said. “They are hungry to make that difference.”
El Dorado and Ponderosa high schools currently have Interact Clubs which can allow for an easy transition for any eighth grader who wishes to continue with the club.
If they do, possibilities in high school and after may very well prove to be endless according to Abbanat.