By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Northborough Rotary’s Interact Club, comprised of 45 students in grades 7-12, has been productive in initiating community service projects during the pandemic, including making care packages for the Northborough Food Pantry and a Worcester shelter. They also produced a COVID-19 awareness video highlighting statements from elected officials, medical staff, and school staff.
Interact Club President Sravya Tanikella is a senior at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) and has been with the group for five years. The group’s focus is on community service and building leadership skills.
The quarantine restricted the group from meeting in person, but they continued to meet virtually to discuss how they could help those in need during this uncertain time.
Tanikella said that when many things closed and events were cancelled, many people felt stuck and unsure of what direction to go in.
The group brainstormed and decided to create a COVID-19 video featuring clips to offer different community perspectives and to raise awareness of the fragility of the situation.
“When it sunk in that the quarantine was going to be longer that we thought, we knew people were looking for inspiration and motivation and could benefit from words of wisdom,” said Interact Club Director Cynthia Rajeshkanna, a junior at ARHS.
Teachers, state senators, town administrators and other community members were featured in the 10 minute video while sharing their own lessons learned, views and experiences.
The video can be viewed on YouTube at the Northborough Southborough Interact Club link.
Another project the Interact Club coordinated was making and delivering care packages. In June, 150 were delivered to a shelter in Worcester and in September, 140 were delivered to the Northborough Food Pantry. The care packages contained basic necessities like soap, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, masks, gloves, a handwritten note and a list of helpline phone numbers.
“There are a lot of people struggling,” said Rajeshkanna. “We found the opportunity to give back, recognized the need and stepped up.”
Rotary Club member Jeanne Cahill advises the Interact Club.
“The group is self-reliant and committed to team building, leadership development, and engagement in purposeful efforts,” she said. “They considerately recognize problems that they can address. I see them questioning how best to plan and engage in efforts despite communication and in-person meeting challenges. It’s a privilege to advise this group – I learn so much from them.”
Club Vice President Andrew Yang, a senior at Mass Academy, said an initiative of the Club that had to be postponed was to host a Rise Against Hunger meal packaging community event. He is hoping to resume working on the details soon as funding was received prior to the shutdown.
“I’m proud of the group,” said Rajeshkanna. “A lot of groups dropped off in April. We stepped up, worked together and carried out the program.”
In addition to Tanikella, Yang and Rajeshkanna, other Club board members include ARHS Seniors Megan Harrington as treasurer and Sofia Abdullina as secretary.