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By Leda Pho-Thai, President, Pinole Valley High School Interact

Interact is an international organization that fosters students’ leadership skills by teaching them to become responsible human beings, aiding them in international peace, unity, and understanding.

Interact clubs are largely student-governed, but are supported and inspired by the RotaryClub, a large, international service organization run by adults.

The name Interact comes from a combination of the words “international” and “action.”

We interact with other high schools to promote communication, social activities, and service above self. Interactors learn the importance of leadership, personal integrity, helpfulness, respect for others, and advancement in international understanding and goodwill. In the process, members are also able to have fun and meet new friends.

Interact gives youth an opportunity to give back, and show they are capable of being leaders of the community.

The community gives us so many opportunities, and it’s our turn to show appreciation and say thank you. Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself, as it is productive and it helps the community.

Pinole Valley Interact meets every Monday, where we discuss future events and how to prepare for them. We also reflect on past events to learn how to improve for the future.

Some of our biggest events are charity dinners and environmental clean ups. Dinners are one of the most important Interact events because we usually get extra money to fund our year-long projects. This year, we are looking into hosting a campus clean-up at our school, and making care packages to help out the homeless communities.

Hosting such events allows us to widen our networks and interact with other members from different high schools in California. These events also help us develop better leadership and communication skills. Each individual has his or her own reason why they want to give back to the community, so I asked some of my fellow members why they joined Interact. What really draws people to want to give back to their communities?

“After growing up in this community, I realized how much of a change I can make. I want the younger generation to realize they are not alone. It is always okay to ask for help. By me going to events, I am able to interact with other mentors and make a change, bettering my own community. The youth being involved sets a good example for the younger ones and strengthens one’s self.” — Samantha VanSlochteren

“I enjoy volunteering. We are able to help the world in so many ways without even knowing.Seeing people enjoy something is one of the best feelings. When you are physically doing something, it makes you feel involved.” — Angelina Voung

“I give back because my actions are louder than my words. I’m nota person who just says things and doesn’t commit. I stay true to my words.

“To feel like I’m doing something right I need to physically do it myself. The continuing encouragement makes me want to keep going and help. It makes me feel happy when I’m doing something right.

“I like to think about how privileged I am and how others don’t have those opportunities. I’m thankful for them and want to take advantage of those opportunities.

“There is a special feeling when you’re giving back. It’s not all about getting free food t-shirts, or stickers. If you do not like what is going on, then go out there and do something about it. When you’re trying to do something positive and impactful, no one is going to tell you no.”

— Leda Pho-Thai

Honestly, most of us do not know why we want to give back. Once you start doing it, you start developing appreciation for it. Giving back makes you feel like you have a purpose.

Doing community work, you start developing relationships with different people, and start getting to know your community more. There’s a certain feeling that gives you that makes you want to do more. Once you experience it yourself, you have a better understanding of what’s going on.

Without Interact, many of us would not have the chance to grow as an individual. Interact allows us to get to know our community, as well as ourselves. We get to see and experience the different things that make up our community.

When you put service above self, the world can be a much better place.

Volunteering is not always easy, but you always get something out of it, whether it be friendship, or even just an experience that makes everything worth doing.

We are the youth and we are the future. Most people might not realize the power that youth holds because they might think that being a kid, you can only do so much. Many of us look around and realize that we need to take action to make our communities a better space for us, and for all.

Sometimes, we might feel powerless, but volunteering gives us that feeling that we can indeed make a change and help out the community.

As individuals, if you want the world to be a better place, you should take action and help. Be the change that you wish to see.

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