Maine students up service with new club
John Davis, Park Ridge Rotary President, signs a charter application for Maine East High School's Rotary Interact Club. Also pictured are Maine East students Jessica Ilc and Syed Matin, co-presidents of the new club. | Contributed photo
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:11AM
From the debate team to clubs for animal lovers or trivia fanatics, hundreds of student-run clubs designed to meet a diverse array of student interests exist between the three high schools in Maine Township District 207.
This January, Maine East High School in Park Ridge added a new club to its list with the launch of the Rotary Interact Club (RIC), a student-run group focused on engaging in leadership opportunities and giving back to the local community.
The RIC is sponsored by the Park Ridge branch of Rotary International, an organization with more than 34,000 clubs around the world that focus on humanitarian and community service work.
The club’s description may seem a lot like other community-focused clubs found in many high schools, but the six students who started the club insist the RIC provides special learning opportunities that help students gain leverage in college and in their future careers.
Teacher John Schwan announced the formation of the club earlier this month, and more than 300 students have since turned in applications.
“Joining this club is a win-win from our standpoint,” Schwan said. “These students will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with and be mentored by many significant leaders in the community while developing professional skills to help them with success in college.”
Patrick Zajac, a junior at Maine West and an officer of the RIC, said he and the other five officers were spending their time this week after finals sorting through applications from the hundreds of students who want to join the club.
“The application isn’t meant to deny people, but we want to make sure we don’t let people in who don’t end up helping out,” Zajac said. “We want motivated and dedicated people.”
Club members will be expected to attend meetings twice a month on Thursday mornings before school, and are required to participate in one community service project each semester out of the two held each school year.
Having more than 300 students apply for one club may seem like an unlikely occurrence at a high school, but Zajac said clubs are considered cool among high school students, at least at Maine East.
“A lot of students love to join clubs here,” Zajac said. “If you join one no one will look down on you.”
Maine East is the only high school in the district to offer the RIC, but is one of almost 11,000 RICs across the world that share a main goal of fostering goodwill and developing a network of connections with local and nationwide chapters.
Although the Maine East RIC hasn’t even officially started yet, some students have already gotten a jump-start on helping the main cause of Rotary International, which is to support worldwide polio eradication efforts.
Zajac, along with fellow officer Alifya Valiji and several other students, organized a school-wide fundraising event earlier this school year that raised more than $725 for the cause.
Valiji, a junior at Maine East, said the RIC would take ideas from new club members before deciding what the club’s next fundraising event would be.
Aside from supporting causes that fight polio, the RIC at Maine West will work under the same umbrella principles followed by the Rotary International organization, which are to develop leadership skills, demonstrate helpfulness and respect for others, and to understand the value of individual responsibility and hard work.