Interact students close Fall Semester with more than 1,200 service hours

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, January 4, 2023

RESERVE — East St. John’s Interact Club is among the most visible service organizations in the community, as students in ninth through 12th grade exceeded 1,200 service hours in the fall semester alone.

Club sponsor Yevette Scioneaux is proud of her students for completing more than 20 service activities across 20 weeks of school, often volunteering time on the weekends.

Interact member Haley Mendez described it as more than a club.

“We don’t just go out and help people. We come together as a community,” she said. “This Interact Club doesn’t just focus on one thing. It branches out. It’s amazing because I personally love helping people out, and for me to be part of this club it’s very eye-opening because I get to see the happiness in the smiles of people who we help. We are blessed, they are blessed, and it’s amazing. More than a club or friends, we are a family, and I feel like that bonds us even more.”

The semester kicked off in August with a community clean-up day on the first anniversary of Hurricane Ida. Approximately 40 student volunteers joined relief groups from across the country at New Wine Christian Fellowship, where they were divided into groups to work on houses of uninsured and underinsured individuals across the community.

According to Interact member Jas Brown, tasks included gutting homes, taking down broken fences, removing branches, mowing the lawn, and conducting other clean-up activities.

In September, Interact students were back in action at the bi-annual St. John the Baptist Parish “Team Up to Clean Up.” Student volunteers focused efforts along Highway 54 in Garyville and removed litter from roads and ditches.

From September 27 through October 12, Interact students spent two days a week volunteering at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary after school from 3 to 5 p.m., focusing efforts on teaching second graders critical literacy skills.

“I love that the kids want to do that. When the second graders were in kindergarten, it was during the COVID pandemic, and when they were in first grade, there was Hurricane Ida,” Scioneaux said. “They’ve never really had a full year of school, and it was important to the principal, Dr. Lawson, to make sure the second graders are catered to.”

Service initiatives continued into the fall and winter. To serve underprivileged families during Thanksgiving, Interact students ventured to New Wine Christian Fellowship to prep roughly 1,500 bags of nonperishable food items for distribution. Throughout the semester, students have provided assistance at various food distribution events hosted by New Wine in collaboration with Second Harvest Food Bank and other organizations.

Recently, several Interact students attended a field trip at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve to partner with the Rotary Club of LaPlace in hosting bingo and singing Christmas carols to the veterans. Students especially enjoyed taking time to talk to the veterans and hear their stories about their experiences in the Armed Forces.

Other service activities this semester have included volunteering at the St. John Parish Andouille Festival, decorating a local church for Christmas, and volunteering at Marathon petroleum’s Christmas event, where students assisted with face painting for children and taking family pictures. At the school level, students supported their peers in talented art and drama by setting up and selling tickets for their December showcase.

Interact member Lauren Miranda has enjoyed every part of serving the community for the past two years.

“We get to enjoy ourselves as well as have fun. We get to experience a lot of new things almost every weekend. This also helps us with school. You don’t have to worry about your afterschool activities because a lot of this community help is on the weekends,” she said. “. Since the pandemic, there are a lot of things that have not come back, and that means people need a lot of help.”

Interact’s presence in the community would not be possible without Ms. Scioneaux serving as sponsor, according to member Delaya Johnson. Students described Scioneaux as a “mother figure” who pushes them to achieve in the classroom but still takes time to make them smile with jokes and by showing off her dance moves.

“My sponsor has showed me that you have to help others to get where you need to be in life,” Johnson said. “She’s always on us, making sure that we do our best.”

Scioneaux believes that a person who serves will eventually become a great leader, and she encourages all of her Interact students to stay involved beyond the high school level.

Member Cyrel Jeff Rodrigazo plans to uphold a tradition of service when he attends LSU for college by either joining or chartering a Rotoract Club, which serves as the bridge between Interact and Rotary.