After the closure of the (old) Brooks Secondary School in the spring of 1994, and while the new Brooks school was being built, it was planned that grade nine and 10 students would attend Max Cameron Secondary School for one year (while grade eight students attended a newly-created middle school), from September of 1994 to June of 1995.
However, just months before the new Brooks school was due to be completed, a fire destroyed much of the brand-new school, and emergency accommodations had to be made for students while rebuilding took place.
It was at this challenging time that the first seeds of the creation of an Interact Club in Powell River began to grow and take form at Max Cameron. They began simply enough with my offering an “International Club” in the fall of 1994 for any students who might be interested in doing good works at home in Powell River, as well as within our country and internationally.
Over the previous three summers I had completed my second degree in education (the first was in home economics), along with my certification for teaching. While doing so, I had completed my certification in global education, and I had brought that background, impetus and hope to the creation of a student-led service group.
I was thrilled by a wonderful response from many students spanning the grades from nine through 12. Some of the key students who joined in that first year would go on to become notable achievers and leaders in the Interact Club: Garry Anderson, Brenda and Sarah Kuntsi, and Shruti Deshpande, our Rotary youth exchange student from India that year, to name just a few out of so many really dedicated and wonderful young people.
That first fall, we organized some small projects: fundraising via a pumpkin-carving competition and sale, a gingerbread-house competition and sale, and cookie sales at the mall, all for the Powell River Food Bank at Christmas. Students also collected food for donation to the food bank and helped by doing volunteer work there. They fundraised for donations to the World Wildlife Fund and many more projects.
Then, part way through that school year, Betty Wilson and I began to brainstorm a much bigger project that would take place in early 1995: a “Multicultural Fair,” the first of its kind in Powell River, to celebrate all the cultural backgrounds of the people who made up our town.
With First Nations and the International Club students, along with other teachers, parents, students and members of the public who joyfully came on board, we planned the food, dances, storytelling, arts and crafts, and so much more. Betty and I were really excited, and my students were so very motivated. Our principal, Brian Bennett, was too.
It was at about this time that Brian, a very active Rotarian, really took notice of what our International Club was working to accomplish and he approached me, wondering if my “International Club” students might be interested in becoming a Rotary-sponsored student group: an Interact Club.
I talked with my students about the possibilities and they were very interested. So Brian and a few other Rotarians did a presentation for them about Rotary and what they do, about Interact groups all around the world, and even about Rotoract for those who want to stay active with Rotary once they’ve left high school.
The students were really inspired, but were even more honoured and impressed when the Rotarians invited them to attend a dinner especially to introduce them all to the membership. It was a pivotal moment that created the first real bonds between Powell River Rotarians and the soon-to-be Interactors, a bond that has grown with the years, of which I am so very proud and happy continues to this day.
Lynne Henry Courtney was the original Interact teacher sponsor.