by Mitch Lehman
Eighth-grader Kris Crowell holds the American Flag in his left hand and his heart in the right as he leads more than thirty Huntington Middle Schoolers in the Pledge of Allegiance on a sun-splashed Tuesday afternoon.
If that isn’t out-of-the-ordinary enough, the assemblage then recites Rotary’s 4-Way Test (of what we think, say and do) and nobody misses a syllable.
Not your standard middle school fare, for sure.
Welcome to a weekly meeting of the Interact Club, a Rotary sponsored service organization that has been in existence at HMS for six years under the watchful eye of Denise Wadsworth.
The school’s speech & language pathologist for the past fifteen years and also a long-time member of the Rotary Club of San Marino, Wadsworth passionately goes about the business of explaining what the group is going to do and why they are going to do it.
“The all-city talent show, we make cards for the military, volunteer at the Hauntington Breakfast and Valentine Fair, raise funds for the Pasadena bad weather shelter, hold a holiday sale and give the proceeds to a charity of our choice, host a shelter shower for the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society, collect necessities for Children’s Hospital and Foothill Unity, hold a mini Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society…”
And as they say in the local campaign business – “partial list.”
Adjacent to the students, who happily munch their lunch while sitting on a colorful patchwork of blankets and towels sits a 700 sq. ft. garden that is exploding with produce.
“We grew 1,000 tomato plants from seed, which we sell at the Monrovia Farmer’s Market and a couple other schools,” Wadsworth explains, handing me a tasty sample. “That money all funnels back in to the community.”
Ten thousand dollars worth last year alone, remarkably, cobbled together from a menagerie of different fundraisers and service projects.
“We had a banner year,” said Wadsworth. “We wanted people to become aware of the bad weather shelter. Good came from good.”
Though not a class, Wadsworth also finds some teachable moments, and the material comes straight from the six tenets of the Rotary Foundation, a worldwide organization that strives to, simply, make the world a better place in which to live.
“Peace & conflict resolution, disease prevention, water & sanitation, maternal & child health, basic education & literacy and economic & community development,” she recites from memory, without notes or hesitation.
And it’s fun: Wadsworth can hardly contain herself as she explains what happened at last year’s turkey toss, another annual fundraiser.
“I saw Catherine Woo chuck a turkey eighteen feet,” she says. “I thought ‘I have found the best shot-putter in school history.’”
The group prides itself on their intrepid spirit and willingness to chop away at projects.
“We have a Chihuahua on our shirts as a logo with the words ‘small but mighty,’” says Wadsworth. “We have a saying that ‘none of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. Go do good!’”
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