Fort Interact Club Continues International and Local Efforts | New
When the pandemic hit 13 months ago, the Fort Atkinson High School Interact Club was in the final stages of preparations for a service trip to the Philippines.
Local students had planned to visit a remote village with Megs Lunn, a native of the Philippines who visited Fort Atkinson on several occasions to promote charitable projects in her home country.
In the Philippines, the students intended to make practical improvements to important facilities in this village.
But the declaration of the global pandemic, the sudden closure of school buildings and the stop of travel put an end to this plan.
Instead, the students of Fort Atkinson, like others around the world, found themselves in a period of isolation.
The club, however, persisted in meeting virtually when members were unable to meet in person.
Throughout the past year, the Fort Atkinson Interact Club has continued its charitable efforts both international and local, but not in the form its members initially envisioned.
Unable to make it to another country in person, the local club continued their international efforts by raising $ 1,500 to provide a prosthesis to a fisherman in the Philippines through the WALK charity, another promoted effort. by Lunn.
The money donated by the Fort Atkinson club not only covered the purchase of the prosthesis for the fisherman, who could never have made the purchase on his own – it also paid for the man’s travel expenses to get himself. travel from the remote area where he lives in Manila. , capital of the Philippines and its second most populous city.
In addition, remaining funds from the Fort Atkinson club’s fundraising efforts were used to meet other critical needs in the same remote village in the Philippines, such as more powerful antennas to strengthen the service communications system. local police and fire department.
The Fort Atkinson Interact Club also continued its efforts in its own hometown.
The biggest project the club has undertaken all year locally has only just begun this spring.
This spring project aims to provide important habitat for pollinators coming from the Fort Atkinson area, a habitat that organizers hope will become a vital long-term resource.
Lori Warren, a staff advisor for the high school Interact club, said the club had contacted high school officials about the possibility of reserving an area on the school grounds to grow native plants, such as milkweed and purple coneflower, which are attractive to pollinators. like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
“The high school has quite a few properties, including swampy and almost swampy lowlands and marginal areas that cannot be used for practice grounds,” said Warren, who in addition to teaching Spanish and teaching counselor Interact Club High School also belongs to the Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson.
These areas could, however, be a great habitat for pollinators, as well as an educational resource for teaching the environment to local students.
The club will do the planting in person. The students reached out to the Master Gardeners of Jefferson County and Heart of the City to act as advisers for the planting and are looking to raise a small amount to fund the project through donations from groups such as the organization. parent-teacher and community foundation.
“The big investment here will be the time and effort of the students – it will only have a nominal cost in money,” Warren said.
She said the students have been involved every step of the way, from planning to obtaining the required clearances to fight volunteers.
“I am delighted that our students have agreed to continue these very large projects despite the challenges of the pandemic,” said Warren.
“It was difficult, but our students were great to work with them,” she said.
Interact is affiliated with Rotary International and the local Rotary club has always worked closely with the school organization, with Rotarian Jim Nelson acting as the liaison between the adult club and the school.
Nelson praised the student group for their initiative and persistence during the pandemic.
He said he felt really bad that last year’s seniors got cheated on their big international service trip, but praised the group for shifting gears and continuing to make a difference.
The group survived an all-virtual spring and even continued to meet most of the summer of 2020. When school resumed in the fall, the group once again focused on their goals of making a difference locally and globally.
They often had to meet virtually and it was only recently that they began to meet in person.
In addition to the large global projects, the group has also taken on several smaller projects.
One of the club’s local projects was to fill the blessing box outside the Fort Atkinson Methodist Church. The blessing box, similar to a small free library but filled with non-perishable food and personal items rather than books, sits right next to the large church sign facing Main Street.
Students regularly replenish the blessing box.
Club members also provided individually wrapped desserts to accompany Feed Your Soul meals – which, since the start of the pandemic, have been treated as take-out events rather than sit-down meals.
Feed Your Soul meals are distributed Thursday afternoons, also at the Methodist Church.
To support its various charitable projects, the Fort Atkinson High School Interact Club is currently holding a fundraiser, selling Fort Atkinson masks in the school’s colors. The money raised from these sales will allow the club to continue providing the Blessing Box in the future.
The high school Interact club is affiliated with Rotary International and has always worked closely with the Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson.
The local Rotary club also tries to provide dedicated Interact members with leadership opportunities, said Nelson, although this year’s events are to be held in a virtual format.
While many students have played down their extracurricular commitments to focusing on academics for a year of virtual and in-person teaching, Fort Atkinson High School Interact Club membership is down slightly this year, with 25 to 30 members. active as opposed. to about 60 in a normal year.
The club is now preparing for what members hope will be more interactive next year.
The members of the 2020-2021 Outgoing Club Officers team are Co-Chairs Eli Koehler and Sarah Mepham, Vice-President Brooke Leibman, Secretary Emma Jahn and Treasurer Logan Hamele. All are seniors except Jahn.
At the end of the semester, officers will be elected for the 2021-2022 school year.
“The first semester, when it was all virtual, it was really hard to recruit,” Warren said. “When we are at school, the club is more visible and people want to be a part of it.”