4 ways to elevate youth voices
Work toward their goals, not yours
This is a club by and for young people — allow them to be the ones to shape it. Remember, Rotary members are there to mentor young people, not manage them. Meet them where they are. Let them set the priorities and ask them how you can best support their goals.
Include youths in your committees, task forces, and teams
Look for opportunities to include Interactors in leadership roles in your club and district. Invite Interactors to your district conferences and training events, where they learn alongside other leaders and can contribute to the broader conversation. At the international level, starting in July, Interactors will sit on a reimagined Youth Advisory Council, giving them the chance to have a voice on Rotary’s youth programs.
Let them take the lead
It’s by planning club meetings and service projects that Interactors gain lifelong skills in management, negotiation, and relationship building. So play the supporting role by volunteering at Interact events wherever they need help. Think about additional ways to help Interactors learn leadership skills, such as Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, district leadership events, and local training opportunities.
Watch out for “adultism”
Adults always know best … or do they? Instead of assuming you know all the answers, be ready to ask questions and listen. Think about the respect you’d give another adult’s viewpoints and ideas and treat a teen the same way.
Having been an Interactor myself I know how enthusiastic Rotary youth are to get involved in whatever way we can. So please, I urge you to reach out to students your club sponsors via Interact, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, Rotary Youth Exchange, and every other youth program, no matter how long ago their experience was, and ask them how these programs shaped their lives. Let them know how they can stay involved in the Rotary world.
Taylor Randall, Australia
Interact members bring fresh perspectives and creativity to projects. Their unique viewpoints, in addition to their tech know-how and capacity to think creatively, can assist in the creation of innovative and successful solutions. And Interact members may use their substantial social media presence to significantly increase awareness of Rotary projects, widening Rotary’s influence and contributing to positive change in their communities.
Rafael Barac-Bologa, Romania
As an Interactor in District 5170, I have had the pleasure of working within my district on projects ranging from COVID-19 relief to anti-human trafficking campaigns — all of which could not be done without Rotary’s support. I hope to see Interactors involved in Rotary and Rotaract service projects, elevating youth voices and ensuring a brighter future.
Mehreen Rosmon, California
We want to continue to evolve as leaders and let others know what Rotary and Interact are doing for the society — not only with our community projects, but also how we develop ourselves in meetings and projects, how family-like our club feels, how we can find help and support in people that we never imagined, and how we can help people that we never thought would need our help.
Eduarda Azeredo Bufalari, Brazil
Work with Interact clubs in the Interact Guide for Rotary Club Sponsors and Advisers.
This article was adapted from the May 2023 issue of Rotary magazine.