Interact Club marks 25 years

Club for young people age 12 to 18 works on projects both in Oak Bay and abroad

Jim Force is the youth services director and past-president of the Rotary Club of Oak Bay. He says Oak Bay High’s Interact Club

Jim Force is the youth services director and past-president of the Rotary Club of Oak Bay. He says Oak Bay High’s Interact Club

Oak Bay High School’s Interact Club celebrates its silver anniversary this year.

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Oak Bay, the club is for young people ages 12 to 18 who want to give back to their community by undertaking projects both here in Oak Bay and around the world.

Jim Force, youth services director and past-president of the Rotary Club of Oak Bay, emphasizes the importance of the club’s impact both at home and abroad. “Interact stands for international action,” he says.

The Interact club has played an active part in local and international projects over its 25 years, from cleaning up Bowker Creek to serving meals at community centres such as Our Place in downtown Victoria.

“What I think is probably the most impressive about the students that take part in (the Interact club) is that they really want to contribute, to do something good and worthwhile,” Force says.

The remarkable trait of Interactors, as they are known, is that they genuinely enjoy the work they do to make a difference in the community and the world. The group is a decent, but manageable size, which enables students in a similar age group to develop friendships and bonds to last a lifetime.

“The foundations of my values and passions have been refined through my Interact experiences,” says current Interact club president Ruby Tang. “I have broadened my world views and developed a strong sense of self in the hopes that one day I will return to society what I have learned.”

The club comprises approximately 20 students and meets once a week in teacher sponsor Tim Bradshaw’s classroom.  Force says along with generously giving their time to projects, students also gain valuable life skills that will serve them well in later years. “One of the big parts of Interact is developing leadership skills…That’s one of the neat things about it. Some clubs (or) sports teams you have to be athletic or musical…with (Interact) you really don’t, you just have to be willing to volunteer your time.”

Students who go above and beyond the call of duty are recognized as Paul Harris Fellows. The honour is named after Rotary founder Paul Harris and is recognized worldwide in the Rotary community.

“Any Rotarian who contributes $1,000 or more over time is recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow, but also we recognize people who have done considerable community service either through the local community or internationally,” Force says.

The Interact club has gained a reputation for churning out multiple past members who have used the leadership skills gained through the club to pursue life goals. Some distinguished former members in include Steven Wong and Sara McLaughlin, past presidents of the Interact Club as well as brother-and-sister duo Tookie and Logan Graham who were also both standout members during their time at Oak Bay High. Logan Graham has since gone on to study at Oxford University.

The club recently recognized its latest Paul Harris Fellow, Clara Bradley. A past president of the club, Bradley joined the volunteer service organization Katimavik after high school, volunteering in a Quebec Eco-citizenship and active living program.

Past and current members of Oak Bay High’s Interact Club continue to bring value to the world. Among the bigger projects include raising thousands of dollars for the Canadian Cancer Society, providing mosquito nets for Uganda and boring wells for clean drinking water in Sierra Leone.

“Today’s world is very self-focused. I mean we take selfies. (People) living in Oak Bay (are) a pretty affluent group of people,” Force says. “Even the poorest people in Oak Bay have it pretty good. It’s easy sometimes to just forget that it’s a privilege to have so much and that actually we got it for doing pretty much nothing. Most kids didn’t earn what they’ve got and they forget that aspect that not everybody is so privileged.”