Rotary launching Interact program with CHS

Rotary launching Interact program with CHS

CUMBERLAND – In an effort to collaborate with schools in the area and encompass more of the community, the Rotary Club of Cumberland-Lincoln will launch an “Interact” program with students of the Cumberland High School Helping Hands Club.

The preparation and planning work started just this year, Rotary chapter president Sue Kelly said, after she spoke with CHS Principal Alan Tenreiro.

The program will officially begin at the start of the academic year in September, but in the meantime, Kelly and science teacher Jessica Delaney are already brainstorming ideas for volunteer events.

On their list so far is an Earth Day event and a “senior prom” dance for senior citizens in the area.

The Helping Hands Club was started by CHS senior Kayleigh LaPre and Delaney for students interested in giving back to the community. The group now has 20 members, and organizes a number of projects to benefit the Providence Rescue Mission.

This year, the group planned fundraisers to purchase gloves, hats and socks for a homeless shelter, and also ran a toiletry drive to collect items for Providence Rescue Mission.

Delaney said the students are all very creative and enthusiastic about community service work, but don’t always have the resources they’re looking for.

Kelly anticipates the partnership with the Rotary will help bridge that gap and ultimately help bring the community together. “It takes a group of people to make it happen,” she said.

Interact programs, Kelly explained, are for people between 14 and 19 years old. “We want to introduce what Rotary is all about in our schools,” she said, not only to help the students with networking and business partnerships, but to assist the surrounding community’s needs.

Each CHS student has to complete a minimum of 15 hours of community service, Delaney said, as a graduation requirement. “You see the kids who go above and beyond the 15 hours that are mandated, and those are the kids who stand out. Those are the kids who join Helping Hands, those are the kids who find little projects,” she said.

“You don’t see that in every single person.”

Kelly said, “It’s got to be inside you,” and noted that it becomes a balancing act to juggle volunteering, school, clubs and sports, and time with family.

She recalled volunteering her time in Providence while growing up in the city. “We always gave back to the community,” she said. Before serving as Rotary president, Kelly volunteered in her children’s schools.

As Delaney gets older, she said, she gets “a little jaded” and doesn’t come up with ideas as quickly as her students. She said the Helping Hands students are extremely socially aware of what is going on in different parts of the state, not just in town, and are constantly thinking of new ways to do community service.

“I always have my teacher glasses on,” Delaney said, causing her to over-analyze ideas. Her students, she said, simplify these tasks and show how easy planning can be.

“It’s just refreshing to have that new perspective,” she said.

Delaney said she’s excited to “bounce ideas” off the Rotary club, which organizes various fundraisers and events in Cumberland and Lincoln.

One of the biggest fundraising events, Kelly said, is a pet walk in June in Cumberland, where local Girl Scout troops team up with the Rotary Club. The group’s next event is a bowling fundraiser, in which multiple Rotary clubs, including Woonsocket, Pawtucket, North Providence and Smithfield, will compete to raise the most money. The winning group gets to pick which charity the funds will benefit.

Rotarians volunteer to ring the bell for Salvation Army donation buckets at Christmastime, Kelly said, and have been working with elementary schools in Cumberland and Lincoln to get a conflict management curriculum kit rolling in classrooms.

Kelly described the Rotary Club as a group that gets things done, tries out ideas and is welcoming.

She said the Interact program will open up doors for many students. “I just can’t see how it wouldn’t,” she said.

Delaney hopes teaming up with the Rotary shows her students that volunteering and community service isn’t something “that ends after high school.”