Destin Middle School introduces Interact Club

Jordan Swanson
Interact Club at Destin Middle School has had 49 students sign up since its conception this semester. Aside from its current anti-bullying campaign, a couple other school project committees in the making are new student greeters/welcome baskets and study buddies.

Destin Middle School welcomed a new organization this year — Interact Club.

So far, 49 DMS students comprise the group, which is based on community service and outreach.

A couple of the standard Interact Club constitution goals are “to recognize and develop constructive leadership and personal integrity” and “to encourage and practice thoughtfulness of and helpfulness to others.”

The club is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Destin. Principal of DMS, Dr. Diane Kelley, came up with the idea for DMS Interact and is also the DMS Rotarian.

“I’ve been involved in the Destin Rotary Club for almost four years now,” said Kelley. “I love the overall philosophy of Rotary, which is ‘Service Above Self.’ This theme is embedded in the four-way test of all that we say or do: 1) IS it the truth? 2) IS it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? and 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Kelley said that she read several articles regarding Interact Clubs and felt that a similar club at DMS would “assist in grooming our young people for leadership activities at the high school level and beyond.”

On Oct. 9, The Log stopped in during one of the DMS Interact Club meetings to find the students browsing the Internet for anti-bullying quotes for a new campaign. “It’s my first day, but it’s really fun that it helps out the community,” said eighth grader Sidney Rodgers.

Rodgers selected the quote: “Bullying can kill, so let’s chill.”

The theme of the campaign is “boo to bullying” to tie in with the Halloween season.

The students were planning to post printouts of the quotes on “Main Street” — the major outside wall/walking area at DMS.

“Bullying is mean and should not be seen,” was the quote that eighth graders Alyssa Bettinger and Lindley Hill chose.

“I think it’s a good way to start community service early,” said Hill. She added that amongst the upcoming community service activities, the one that she looks forward to most is “Litter Getters.” This activity will consist of the Interact Club making occasional walks along the docks at Destin Harbor’s Boardwalk as well as Norriego Point to pick up trash.

The club’s first community project took place at Destin Seafood Festival and consisted of pulling heavy trashcans up and down the hill to empty them.

“It was fun, hanging out with your friends and cleaning up,” said Hill. “Whenever you do something alone, it’s not as fun.”

Mary Lynn Bettinger, DMS eighth-grade science teacher, is the sponsoring teacher for the club.

“They’re loving it — it just keeps growing,” Bettinger said of the club. “It instills the importance of serving and giving back to the community, and helps build friendships.”

Bettinger said the club invites seventh and eighth graders who are “leadership type of children.”

“Hopefully, this will feed into the kids serving at Fort Walton Beach High School and Niceville High School,” said Bettinger, since both high schools have an Interact Club.

Alexa Olsen, eighth grader and treasurer of Interact Club of DMS, said the community service project she is looking forward to most is the collecting of towels for Alaqua Animal Refuge.

“I really want it to get large and be well known,” said Olsen of the club.

For more information on Interact Club of DMS, contact Bettinger at the school at 833-7655.

“My hope is that our students will become more aware of the needs outside themselves, that they will realize that by their own actions they can improve the quality of life for others both home and abroad … “ said Kelley.