The Ridgefield Interact Club, sponsored by Ridgefield Rotary Club, is an outstanding example of student leadership. Using their skills, they raised funds for community and international projects. Under the leadership of Samantha Sutcliffe and Spencer Jamieson as co-presidents during the term of 2018 – 2019 and its 40 members, they donated money to Fidelco, a charity based in Wilton, CT who partners men and women, visually impaired, with their extensively trained elite German Shepard Guide Dogs. Funds were also donated to Heifer International, a global nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values based holistic community development, by distributing livestock, agricultural training, and other supplies that help people in third world countries to continue to survive through self-sufficiency. A third nonprofit organization was Build Africa, an African Education charity who believe in the power of education to help end poverty.
The Interact students have an annual assembly for the sophomore students. Judith Altman, a survivor herself, along with other speakers, all members of both the IRIS, the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, a nonprofit in New Haven, CT, who work to relocate and help to settle immigrants and refugees in America, and The Holocaust Child Survivors of Connecticut, a group of people who survived the Holocaust when they were children and now reside in CT, come to speak at the assembly every year. Through this assembly, the Interact students are on a mission to educate others on discrimination and the Holocaust.
The Interact students also raised money by having events like bake sales almost weekly, and having restaurant nights where restaurants give them 10% of their profits for the night. The restaurants that participated last year were 850 and SoBol. Additionally, they had a Disco Skate to raise money for their main charities. The Interact district has a project called Dance Your Heart Out, which they participated in to raise money for End Polio Now, which in turn donated they $300 to that cause.
Aside from raising money through their events, the Interact students helped out with the Ridgefield Rotary monthly food drive. With their help and enthusiasm the Rotary far exceeds any other food drive, collecting between $8,000 – $15,000 in food, cash, and Stop & Shop gift cards each month. Additionally, they helped out at the Used Bike and Sewing Machine project, and held a canned food drive for RVNA.
Through the Ridgefield Rotary sponsorship the Interact students are able to attend RYLA, Leaders of tomorrow, Next Generations, and World Affairs leadership training events.
The Interact had set a goal to raise $2,500 but far exceeded that goal to raise $7,000, something they never thought possible, plus have many more events than just a cake sale. They attribute this to the generosity of the people donating.
Samantha and Spencer have now joined the Rotaract group in college. Sam has been to all two of Rotaract’s meetings this year and commented on how they are very different from Interact Club meetings. Currently, they are fundraising to go on a service trip to Costa Rica where we will be working in a Nicaraguan Refugee camp during Spring Break, They are also helping to organize the A21 Walk on October 19th as well as doing other events in the community like spending the day at the local women’s shelter. She further goes on to say, “ Rotaract Club here at AU is great, however, I have noticed that Ridgefield definitely prepares people for leadership and public speaking roles better than some other high schools.” She will be going on to apply to be on the board of the club next year and work her way into the president position. Sam has expressed to me that before joining Interact and going to the Leadership training program, she was a very shy student.
Abby Sutcliffe and Lakshmi Kanumuri have now become the co-presidents of the present year 2019-2020. Although they have lost 10 members through graduation, they have now brought freshman students into the club. For this year, they plan to work on having different types of events to mix it up from the usual bake sales. One additional way will be to have a restaurant night at Eddies Pizza. They have set a goal to raise $3000, donating to CARE and Connecticut Cancer Foundation. CARE provides emergency relief and long-term international development projects, as they put their effort into fight world poverty and hunger by helping individuals, families, and communities rebuild their lives after conflicts or disasters. Connecticut Cancer Foundation provides economic assistance and financial aid to cancer patients in Connecticut. They will continue to be a big part of the Ridgefield Rotary monthly food drive and hold the RVNA can food drive. They also plan to be a part of a project with the town leaders on issues that not only affect this town but towns throughout the whole country.
Through these efforts, the Interact students develop a network of friendships with local and overseas clubs and learn the importance of:
Developing leadership skills and personal integrity
Demonstrating helpfulness and respect for others
Understanding the value of individual responsibility and hard work
Advancing international understanding and goodwill.
The Interact students have come several times to speak of their accomplishments. To hear them speak, one is immediately very impressed. The Ridgefield Rotary Club is honored to be a sponsor of such an outstanding group of our future leaders.