Rotary values community leadership.  It is the core of Rotary values.
 
We recognize, however, that young people do not simply grow up to be such leaders.  They need mentors, role models, and training.  Sebastopol Rotary works hard to interest students in leadership and helps them learn what that means by supporting them as they take on community obligations for the first time.
 
               Interact ClubsInteract is a service club for young people ages 12-18 who want to be involved in their local community and around the world.  They join together to tackle issues in their community they care most about.  Through Interact, young people can:
 
               - Carry out hands-on service projects
               - Make international connections
               - Develop leadership skills
               - Have fun!
 
 
Interact, which is supported by teachers and Rotary volunteers, teaches students about the importance of community and international service.  Students learn leadership skills, citizenship, teamwork, organization, and project coordination. The Interact students are responsible for planning, financing, organizing, and carrying out their own activities and projects. 
 
Their financial contribution to the projects they support is substantial.  In 2015-16, Brook Haven Interact raised over $5500 for students of Lake County’s Cobb Mountain School after they suffered through the Valley Fire, and Analy’s Interactors gave over $6900 to three international projects and another $250 to Polio Plus.   
 
A favorite of all the students is the Adopt-A-Family program, where they organize boxes of food including a holiday feast and wrap presents they have chosen for over 20 families and 80-plus children.  The presents and food are delivered to each family shortly before Christmas with just the right fanfare for the season.  The Interact convoy is escorted by Sebastopol’s fire trucks!  Not a sleigh, but perhaps something better.
 
There are currently four schools in the Interact program:
 
               - Analy High School: (began 1969) – Currently over 50 members
               - Brook Haven Middle School: (began 1995, when it was just the second junior Interact club in the world) – Currently 40 members
               - Orchard View School: (began 2010) – Currently 20 members
               - Twin Hills School: (began 2012) – Currently 25 members
 
 
 
               - Rotary Youth Leadership Awards for Camp RYLA - Every year Analy High School juniors eagerly apply to attend Camp RYLA, where they have fun while developing leadership skills from business, social, professional, and educational leaders who share their ideas, techniques, philosophy, and inspirational messages.  The applicants for this one week program must have a GPA above 3.5, hold student leadership positions, and/or participate in athletics and other extra-curricular activities.   The club currently budgets $2900 to send five students to RYLA.

 
               Because Camp RYLA is close to Sebastopol, many of our Rotary members participate as discussion leaders and mentors.  Both Sebastopol and Sebastopol Sunrise Rotary Clubs do the kick-off barbeque on Father’s Day to welcome all of our student leaders. 
 
               Gabriel, one of the club’s students who attend the camp recently, said: “I would definitely recommend RYLA because RYLA really changed my life for the better, and I want other students to have the opportunities that I had at RYLA.”
 
 
               - Rotary International Youth Exchange – Rotary International’s Youth Exchange program sponsors more than 9000 high school student exchanges globally each year to advance cultural understanding, international goodwill, and peace.  Each school year, the Sebastopol Rotary Club exchanges a West Sonoma County outbound student for an inbound student from one of the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Thailand.
 
Jackie Moreira, a club member who has been both a host and counselor for the program, says, “I continue to be amazed by the value of this program, the growth I see in these incredible young people, and the friendships built and sense of community it creates around the world. These students build lasting friendships with their host families as well as their fellow exchange students. They return home with intense feelings of goodwill toward America that most certainly helps promote world peace and understanding.“
 
All students who are a minimum of 16 years old and not more than 18 ½ years of age at departure in August are eligible to apply.  A student’s relationship to a Rotarian is neither a preference nor a disqualification.  The keys to success as an exchange student are social flexibility, desire to learn about the host country and its people, courtesy, honest, and participation in school and host family activities. 
 
Students are carefully assigned to a minimum of two and a maximum of four host families during their 10-month stay.  All Rotary Host Parents are non-paid volunteers who willingly open their homes and are dedicated to the student’s well-being.
 
For inbound exchange students, Rotary puts on a whitewater rafting trip in August and a fun weekend in San Francisco in October.  Inbound and students selected to be outbound the following school year attend the Rotary District Conference in May.
 
If you would like information on becoming an outbound student or are interested in becoming a host family, click here.
 
 
 
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