Home-schooled students form Interact club
Norman Home School Interact Club members (from left) Britton VanBuskirk, Rachel Seewald, Becky Seewald, and Melinda Fuson care for stray animals at the Second Chance animal shelter in Norman, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Basha Hartley
From her vantage point as a public librarian in Norman, Oklahoma, USA, Basha Hartley could see how hard home-schooling parents work to educate their children.
She also noticed how home-schooled children can become isolated from their peers at public high schools.
"I began noticing these great kids who are kind of invisible in our community," says Hartley, a member of the Rotary Club of Norman. "I don't think most of our club was aware of this fairly large group of home-schooled children."
After three years of talking to home-schooling families, Hartley was able to persuade a group of teens to begin an Interact club in August 2007. The Norman Home School Interact club meets monthly in the library -‑ with Hartley and Joe Gil, of the Rotary Club of Norman-Cross Timbers, as sponsors -- and held its charter banquet in June.
"Parents, for a whole variety of reasons, decide on home schooling their children,” says Hartley. "I thought it would be really great to get these kids involved in Rotary because Rotary is all about helping our kids."
One of the first
Hartley and RI staff believe the club is one of the first, if not the first, for home schoolers. In addition to its regular meeting, the club takes part in a service project every month with the Interact club at Norman High School, creating valuable bonds between the students.
The two Interact clubs have bought Christmas presents for foster children, volunteered at an animal sanctuary, and taken part in a "crop walk" to raise money for world hunger. One of the leaders in the home- schooled group also launched a project with the local 4H club, purchasing pet food at a discount and repackaging it in small bags to distribute to pet owners in the Meals on Wheels program.
"What they were finding is that some of the Meals on Wheels clients were feeding their meals to their pets because they didn’t have enough money for pet food," Hartley says. "What was great about this project was that many of the Interact kids from the high school didn't know much about 4H before this."
Hartley says the home-schooled students often have a more flexible schedule and are eager to volunteer their time. That involvement increases their visibility in the community and helps their parents get connected as well.
"Being a member of Interact has made my friends and me want to be more involved in our community and really help people in need," says Becky Seewald, 2007-08 club president. "Through Interact, we all now share a greater sense of investment in our environment, our relationships, and the vision we share for our world."
Hartley would like to see the club serve as a model for other communities.
"They have so much to give; they really love Service Above Self," Hartley says of the home-schooled students. “What we are saying is, let’s join together to give. As a community, we will work together."