Derrick Marr, a teacher at Cleveland Middle School, spoke to members of the Cleveland Rotary Club on Tuesday to share the accomplishments of the school’s Interact Club.
An Interact Club is a student chapter of the clubs overseen by the Rotary International organization. Like an adult Rotary Club, it largely focuses on the merits of community service.
The club started at Cleveland Middle in 2002. When Marr first became its faculty sponsor, the club only had nine members, but the number later grew to the group of 32 it is today. Marr said this was quite a feat, especially considering the club’s early meeting time — 7:20 a.m. every other Tuesday.
Student club members regularly take part in projects with the club to help both those within the school and around the world.
“We focus primarily on what we can do in our own school,” Marr said, noting middle schoolers have fewer transportation options than those in high school clubs since they cannot drive themselves elsewhere to take part in projects.
One recent project involved the students selling rubber wristbands to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House in Chattanooga. Selling them for $1 each and accepting the occasional donation for a larger amount, the club raised about $300 to give to the organization.
Other projects have included volunteering at a book fair to raise money for the school and participating in the school’s Raider Tree project before Christmas. Anonymous details about needy classmates were places on a Christmas tree, and students could “adopt” a Raider and purchase gifts for that student. Club members also took part in the Operation Christmas Child project before Christmas, packing shoeboxes with such items as toiletries and toys to send to needy children around the world. CMS students also became Salvation Army bell ringers during the holidays.
After sharing information about the various projects, Marr introduced the four students he had brought with him to attend the day’s meeting. All spoke about the various projects they had been involved in and shared what they had learned while serving others.
Eighth-grader Nicole Wiley said she took Rotary’s motto, “Service Above Self,” seriously and added she liked how the club encouraged her to work hard to help her community.
Seventh-grader Allison McGinnis said she credited the club with helping her gain the desire to find out about other people’s needs and try to meet them.
“It helps you see the world more clearly,” McGinnis said.
Allison Hubbard, a fellow seventh-grader, said serving alongside her classmates made her feel like she was “already making a difference” despite her age.
Seventh-grader Cole Shelton said the club has encouraged him to take part in service projects even when not doing so with the club. It had also opened his eyes to those in the community who do not have necessities like food or shelter.
“I took for granted that I had all those things,” he said.
Marr then addressed the club again and explained the experience had been a positive one for many of the other students as well. He said the student club members he had spoken to had learned from what they had taken part in and were also eager to serve. Some had even taken part in service projects on their own.
He also thanked the Cleveland Rotary Club for its continued support, as it has been serving as a sponsor for the student club.