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Interact: A New Club with a Big Mission

Interact: A New Club with a Big Mission
Tutt Stapp-McKiernan

This fall, Wakefield’s largest Middle School/Upper School club is also one of its new clubs--the Interact Club, a service organization helmed by newly-elected president Boston Chute ’23 and guided by faculty advisor John Pennisi. Boasting a total membership of 42, with 28 in Upper School and 14 in Middle School, the club has ambitions that match the strength of its numbers.

Mr. Pennisi says that, at a previous school where he taught, he had started an Interact Club, and it was a great success. As a high school student Mr. Pennisi was also the president of his school’s Interact Club, and in his words, “that’s when I fell in love with it”--so his affinity for the organization’s work runs deep. 

According to Boston, he became interested in the club when “Mr. P” described it to him. “I was interested in a club that could benefit the community, and other countries, and our school,” Boston says. “It gives a chance for kids to earn Community Service hours--and you also [learn] how to ‘interact’ with others, and even do public speaking, too.”

Every Interact Club must be sponsored by a local Rotary Club, and Wakefield’s Interact is sponsored by the Gainesville-Haymarket Rotary. Wakefield’s Interact also has two Rotary members who are the club’s mentors: Daniel Kasmierski, and Sima Button, wife of Wakefield science teacher David Button. The Rotary had “boots on the ground” for Interact’s very first event on October 10, a collaborative effort between the club, Ovoka Farm in Paris, and the Rappahannock County Food Pantry.

According to Mr. Pennisi, Interact is partnering with Wakefield parent Karen Way of Ovoka Farm to make sustainable food donations throughout the year to local organizations that feed families in need. Rappahannock Food Pantry was the first recipient of a donation, of about 1,000 pounds of frozen beef from Ovoka's warehouse in Upperville.  

Interact Club members (and parents!) arrived on Saturday morning to meet with members of the Gainesville-Haymarket Rotary Club, as well as Dr. Noel Laing, president of the Rappahannock Food Pantry. Students loaded up the boxes of beef in Upperville, then rode to Sperryville to deliver their thousand pounds of cargo to the Food Pantry. 

According to Dr. Laing, the Food Pantry assists about 10% of Rappahannock County’s 7000 residents.

“It was a fun opportunity,” says Boston, who was among the early risers who completed the Saturday morning task rather than taking the opportunity to sleep in. “I was pleased that we also had seven other members who were on board” to get up at 7:00 am to come and help.

In the future, Interact will be sharing some of its Ovoka food donations through Old School Kitchen in Haymarket. In this scenario, club members will have the opportunity to come to the kitchen and help the organization’s chef to prepare actual meals with the donations--and distribute them to families as well. “We can really help so many people!” says Boston.

Both the Middle School and Upper School sections of interact are now working on launching Wakefield’s Thanksgiving Food Drive. And many other projects are foreseen as well--as can be inferred from the elaborate structure of the club’s Executive Board.

In addition to the traditional roles of Vice-President (Ben Pieja), Secretary (Callie Rector), and Treasurer (Cathryn Jennings), the club’s Executive Board includes four Committee chairmanships: Club Committee (Cameron Carnegie), Finance Committee (Lucky Giyanani), Service Committee (Liam Howard), and International Committee (Celina Kim). Eighth grader Darcy Marcoux serves as the Middle School Representative to the Executive Board, and David Blackburn, Vik Giyanani, and Kate Neff are Executive Board Members at Large.

“I have no doubt this board will do its best to lead our club with compassion and spirit,” says Mr. Pennisi.

Asked why he had been interested in serving as president of this ambitious new club, Boston gave the surprising reply that the pandemic had something to do with it.

Apparently when “Mr. P” first told him about the Interact Club at his former school, he mentioned that one of the activities that the club did was a lockdown. “I had ALWAYS wanted to do an event where we got to spend the night at school--I just thought that would be so cool!” Boston says. “So that was a main reason I wanted to do the club--because of the lockdown. And then the pandemic came, so no lockdown!” 

Boston laughs and shakes his head at the irony, saying, “So then I was stuck--but stuck in a good way!” It seems he is more than happy to be the president of such a useful club, even without a lockdown.

“Right now our club is making a difference in our community,” he says. “But soon, it will be making a difference in the whole world.”