Battle Ground High School InterAct club making a difference

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So many dedicated young people these days are truly inspiring.

You can find an energetic assortment of youth like these giving generous amounts of their time in the InterAct student service club, affiliated with Lewis River Rotary, at Battle Ground High School.

“It (InterAct) offers us a lot to do,” said Briena Henry, 17, one of the club members. Henry is also a soccer player. “It’s our way of giving back, not just to the community, but to the school as a whole – and we can manage it, because there are so many of us.”

The difference these kids make in the lives of others – and in the environment -- is local and far-flung.

“It (InterAct) lets you know that making a difference isn’t very hard,” said Jake Belford, 17, student member, and basketball player.

Another InterAct student, also an artist, Michael Lauterback, 17, added a friendly reminder that it’s possible to make a difference in the community without belonging to a club, too. And that everyone in the community is invited to help with InterAct.

InterAct is Rotary International’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18 and are sponsored by local Rotary clubs, which provide support and guidance. Club membership varies. They can draw from the student body of a single school or from two or more schools in the community. Battle Ground High School’s InterAct club pulls students from the school and is the only club of its kind in Battle Ground. InterAct, however, is a fast growing and significant program of Rotary service. Currently, more than 10,700 InterAct service clubs are in 109 countries and geographical areas. And worldwide, nearly 200,000 young people are involved.

But in Battle Ground, 30 dedicated InterAct youth are the driving force to positive change.

“My kids rock!” said Jann Byrd, associate principal for Battle Ground High School, a 10-year Rotarian with Lewis River Rotary, and advisor for the InterAct student service club. “I’ve just got this amazing group – they are extraordinary kids who really believe in community service.”

The InterAct club, formed in 2009, attracts and represents a wide array of talents and interests within the student body at Battle Ground High School. Stepping up to the helping hand plate are advanced placement students, ASB officers, star athletes, musicians, artists, and intellectuals.

“InterAct builds confidence and character,” said Susie Urias, 17, and another of the group’s members.

“It’s also a blast,” said Tyler Bergeron, 17, club member and also the high school’s star football player. Bergeron added one of his favorite projects is helping with Walk ‘n’ Knock.

Energy, working together as a unit, compassion, compromise, and drive are among qualities these amazing kids possess. “You have your friends, too,” said student member Alyssa Castaneda, 18. Castaneda plans to participate in Rotary after she graduates. “That’s why it’s so fun for us.”

Byrd said the students love helping with the community service projects and simply show up for everything.

The projects are both large and small. And the kids spend time and energy participating in fundraising efforts to raise money to make the projects a success. Recent projects include raising $1,000 for a Shelter Box that is now serving a homeless family in the Haiti relief effort. Shelter Box is an international disaster relief charity that delivers emergency shelter, warmth, and dignity to people affected by disaster worldwide. A Shelter Box typically includes a relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage, purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.

“Last year we really got with it and earned $3,000 and sent that to the Life Straw Water Purification Program in Africa,” Byrd said. Byrd was recently honored by Lewis River Rotary with a Transformer Award for her service work to the community, the high school, and its students. The club itself has received Rotary’s Presidential Citation two years in a row for outstanding service. “The company provides purification straws that little kids are given – one per person – and they can drink out of the most disgusting water puddles you can imagine and they purify the water.”

Nearly 1 billion people suffer without access to safe and clean water. The Water Project, Inc., is working to make a difference with this problem “one village at a time.” Thanks to the Life Straws, kids are healthier, Byrd said, and they are going to school more regularly as a result.

“It’s very cool,” Byrd added, “We partnered with our local rotary, because it’s one of the (big) projects through Rotary International, and bought 3,040 worth of Life Straws.”

It doesn’t stop here.

Another big project near and dear to the students’ hearts is Heifer International. The club raised $4,000, Byrd said, by selling T-shirts, having an auction, and receiving a matching grant, which they sent to Heifer International, a group dedicated to purchasing livestock such as beehives, goats, chickens, pigs, and llamas for poor residents and families in Peru.

“What was shocking to me was that these people have nothing, but when you give them goats or sheep that they can sheer (for example), they can take the wool and make several thousand dollars a year,” Byrd said, “which is astronomical for them.”

Other InterAct projects include planting trees on the school campus (this was one of the group’s launch projects), service work with the Clark County PUD StreamTeam, which works to address the problems facing the Salmon Creek Watershed, and Walk ‘n’ Knock. Other activities include hosting an annual Christmas party at the Community Center, beautification projects throughout the city, and recently, panhandling for polio. The club worked together to help to raise money toward the effort to eradicate polio. This project is a big push for Rotary International, Byrd explained. Bill Gates also has donated millions to Rotary in this effort. Future project efforts might include traveling to Middle America. And working with Habitat For Humanity is on the current do list.

Byrd said with everything the kids are doing with school, their own activities and projects through InterAct, she is careful what she takes on to ensure the kids are not overloaded. Everything is carefully organized and thought out.

“These kids work so hard,” Byrd said. “It’s a wonderful group.”

To learn more, donate, or volunteer time on projects this year call Byrd at (360) 885-6550. To learn more about some of the large scale projects mentioned visit www.shelterbox.org, www.thewaterproject.org, and www.heifer.org.