A community for community service.

One DeKalb County School District (DCSD) high school club is blending elements of student enterprise, business, community service and scientific certification.

Redan High School’s Interact Club—short for international action—founded in 2015, is working to become one of DCSD’s first student-run, service-based, and internationally connected teams.

In doing so, students are fostering leadership skills, forging community partnerships and aiding neighbors in the Redan community. Students say the club helps them stay focused on school, become more dedicated to work and meet likeminded peers—living the Interact’s motto of “service above self.”

For junior Ronald Antoine, club president, Interact offers a chance to make extracurricular activity a labor of love.

“For me, in my general spirit, I like helping out in any way I can and giving with generosity—I’m a loving brother,” Antoine said. “Interact helps me get outside my comfort zone and become a better leader by building better leaders. I find it so common to be surrounded by ambitious people.”

Redan High School’s Interact ClubOther students share Antoine’s enthusiasm, making Interact seemingly unique among other high school clubs.

“[I joined because] I saw things that Interact was doing with the community and the amount of community service they do,” said junior Shakara Alceus. “I like helping people; I like the motivation in this club. There’s a lot of love.”

Each year, the club selects a theme based on local and global need. For the 2017-2018 school year, Redan Interact focused on the topic of water quality.

According to club founder, teacher and sponsor Rodney Finkley, Redan Interact students obtain water testing certification to test surrounding neighborhoods’ water quality. They also gained experience in working with related equipment—including lead water testers.

The club has since been in contact with the Hidden Hills Homeowner’s Association, developed partnerships with the White Oaks Baptist Church as Adopt-A-Stream, and been on-site in neighborhoods to examine local streams, lakes and home water services. During the Fall 2017 semester, Interact also attended expert-instructed workshops and took a trip to the Scott Candler Water Treatment Plant in Atlanta.

Many of the club’s findings are published in a recurring newsletter, which is developed completely by students. The students share their authentic field work with the local community and market their findings. Redan Interact hopes to share the information with homeowner associations, parent-teacher associations and even public libraries.

Finkley said one long-term goal of the club is to partner with a school internationally. He has already had students Skype with students from Indonesia and someday hopes students can visit such places in person.

Redan High School’s Interact Club“We’re going to discuss what we’re doing with kids and classrooms around the world,” Finkley said. “I don’t want our club to just visit. I want the kids to walk away with an experience that’s almost life-changing; one that causes our students to say ‘Hey, I’m a global citizen—I belong wherever I want to go. There’s no limitations in the world to who I can do business with and be friends with.’ I want to open up their minds to feel like they belong anywhere.”

Redan is one of many high schools throughout the country to start an Interact Club. Being the byproduct of Rotary International, Redan Interact Club’s main affiliate and community partner is Stone Mountain Rotary Club.

Finkley said he was inspired to bring Interact to Redan High to provide an outlet for “average” students to achieve higher. He said he hopes the club’s transferrable skills relating to biology and marketing make it more and more desirable each semester.

“I want to take the other kids, the average kids who aren’t in band or on the football team or on the basketball team, and turn them into leaders,” Finkley said. “What happens to those students? What keeps them here? I want to create that type of club, one that will start to generate a buzz where people say, ‘I want to go to Redan to join Interact Club.’ We want to build leaders, because leadership can be fun.”

Such enthusiasm has already spread to junior Alexander Rashard Kimp.

“I need something to occupy my time because I don’t want to do anything that is not productive,” said junior. “I’ve always been the type of person that’s for the community. It’s pure positivity. By being active, you keep your brain moving.”

Redan’s Interact Club plans to host upcoming fundraisers March 10, including a road cleanup and three-on-three basketball tournament. For junior Benjamin Black, this is proof positive that Redan’s Interact Club is combining friendly atmosphere with scientific awareness and community service.

“[The club] is really close knit and we really help the community,” Black said. “I like that we’re getting awareness out. Everyone here is very supportive.”

For more information on Redan High School’s Interact Club, including information on how to donate to the club or render its services, contact Rodney Finkley at rodney_finkley@dekalbschoolsga.org. Other teacher sponsors include Deayne Johnson, Marcia Wiltshire and Lenita Stovall.