Teens sometimes are labeled as self-absorbed and having bad attitudes, but such assessments are unfair when one considers the accomplishments of groups such as the Surry Central High School Interact Club.
That was highlighted during a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Mount Airy which featured a speech by Katie O’Neal, the president of the group at Surry Central, and an Interact pinning ceremony.
The Mount Airy Rotarians sponsors it and other Interact clubs in the local district. The Interact program is a branch of the Rotary organization which is open to youths 12 to 18, who are provided with opportunities to serve the community.
That is true of the Surry Central Interact Club, for which Katie detailed a long list of projects when addressing Rotary members at Cross Creek Country Club — saying these could not have occurred without their support.
Many causes aided
Although COVID curtailed activities to some extent within the past year or so, the Surry Central High School group — which had about 30 members at last report — spearheaded a number of projects during that period which have included:
• Facilitating the creation of a “Take What You Need Wall” at the school last March, offering free hygiene products to students in need. This includes toothbrushes, soap, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste and other items.
These are placed in a high-traffic hallway so as to be accessible to everyone. “Individuals and organizations throughout the community and school have donated items, and we are always in need of more,” Katie added at the Rotary meeting, calling the Take What You Need Wall her club’s “biggest contribution” to the school.
• The sponsoring of a coat drive in the front lobby of the school where students, faculty and community members were asked to donate their gently used coats. Fifty coats were collected and distributed to schools across the county.
Zibbys Drycleaners and Laundry cleaned the garments at no cost.
• Providing Christmas gifts for the Angel Tree program, for which Interact is the leading sponsor at Surry Central. During the 2021 holiday season, members sponsored three Angel Tree children, shopping to meet their needs and ensuring they enjoyed a happy Christmas. The group also spearheaded Angel Tree efforts for Christmas 2022.
• The Interact Club’s participation in a school carnival during which $800 was raised for the Dobson Food Pantry.
• Collecting relief items for individuals in Florida after Hurricane Ian struck the state in September.
“We were able to see our influence even through a small contribution,” Katie mentioned.
• Helping to sponsor Drug Prevention Week last April, when speakers from the community engaged with students to highlight the struggles of individuals on drugs.
The Surry County EMS and Surry Sheriff’s Office conducted simulations to further students’ education in drug prevention.
• Helping an individual whom Katie called a “wonderful office assistant” diagnosed with breast cancer, Julie Pratt. The Surry Central Interact Club created, organized and sponsored a charitable event on her behalf last winter.
“We brought joy to the students and community through bake sales, pink strands of love and face painting — all at a basketball game on a Tuesday night,” Katie told Rotary members. “We were able to raise $8,000, and all of it went towards Julie Pratt’s fight against cancer.”
• Sponsoring and hosting a “Pink Out” football game against North Surry High in honor of Pratt and another individual, Anita Hull. Pink Out events typically are conducted during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to help combat the disease.
As part of what Katie called “an outpouring of involvement in our district and school,” items were sold, decorations were set up and the stands filled on both sides in honor of Pratt and Hull. A total of $4,500 was raised and distributed to them.
“Gathering together to show support for these two amazing women provided us with inspiration for further events,” the Interact Club president said.
• Fulfilling a goal for October by providing educational opportunities at Surry Central while raising funds for charitable causes. Interact sponsored Go Gold Week, during which students and faculty could donate $2 to receive a gold ribbon that showed their support for ending childhood cancer.
Items were distributed and information was given to further the community’s knowledge of children who have been battling the disease.
The effort raised $250, with all donations going to the Isabella Santos Foundation — a pediatric cancer fund that spreads awareness.
• Participating in Purple Pinky Day on Oct. 24, when the club raised money for polio prevention while teaching students about the effects of polio on the world. More than 100 students engaged in the effort by painting their pinkies purple, with all proceeds going to polio-prevention organizations.
• Sponsoring Red Ribbon Week toward the end of October to promote drug-abuse prevention. A table was set up in front of the cafeteria during lunch with merchandise, information and red ribbons. Students were able to sign a banner stating their resolve to end drug abuse.
Speakers also gave presentations to students and videos were shown in classrooms stressing the importance of saying no to drugs.
“Without the support of Mount Airy Rotary, this event would have been impossible,” said Katie, who thanked Rotarians for providing banners, merchandise and activities.
• Hosting a seventh-annual dodgeball tournament for which individuals paid a fee to enter teams consisting of faculty members and students.
“Everyone in the school watched the battle between classes,” Katie related. “We raised $120 and all proceeds went to research for Huntington’s disease.”
• Holding a recent Snowflake Ball that students were excited over, including developing, creating decorations for and promoting the event. All proceeds went to the Interact General Fund that will allow the club to sponsor and create a multitude of other events to benefit the district.
• Planning and finalizing the overall setup for the opening of the Surry Central Clothing Closet to serve families in Surry County, which Katie said members have worked diligently to create and organize and collected a “multitude of donations” for at last report.
• Gathering recently at a church in the Pine Hill community where members packed 250 shoeboxes for the Samaritan’s Purse organization
“Without Mount Airy Rotary, we would be unable to organize and generate successful events that benefit our school and district,” Katie advised its members during the recent meeting.
“We would like to thank you all for supporting Interact’s involvement within our community,” she added. “You motivate us to be helpers, leaders and advocates — you motivate us to be better.”
Along with benefiting the community, Interact involvement has allowed members to develop lifelong skills and understand the need to advocate for change, the Surry Central student observed.