Rotary Youth Exchange changes lives

Dave White

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and last in a series of blog posts from the 2018 Youth Leadership All-Stars, participants in Rotary’s programs for young leaders, in celebration of Youth Service Month.

By Dave White, Rotary Club of Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada

I was inspired to become involved in the Rotary Youth Exchange program in the 1980s while I was a secondary school principal and the school hosted our first international exchange student. A young lady, an Inbound Exchange student from South Africa, spent the year at our school. She had never been taught by a non-white teacher and had some hesitations about attending his classes. The trepidations soon disappeared. She grew to know and respect the teacher as a person and thoroughly enjoyed his classes.

Perhaps, more importantly, she realized her attitudes could be challenged. As a result of seeing this student from South Africa having this unique experience I learned that Rotary Youth Exchange not only changes the lives of youth but also enriches their lives. I knew that I wanted to join Rotary and become involved with Youth Exchange.

In the 26 years I have been a member of the Rotary Club of Courtenay, I have been on almost all of our club’s Youth Service committees, as well as president of my club and also the Rotary Club of Kyiv Multinational in Ukraine. Throughout this time I remain a supporter and promoter of Rotary Youth Exchange and youth programs.

Student of the month

During the 1990s, I started a local Rotary Student of the Month programme, which now includes each of the four secondary schools in Courtenay. Every month a school brings a student to our meeting to receive a plaque recognizing them as their student of the month. The students who receive this recognition are those that best illustrate the Four Way Test within their respective school.  These students are selected by their school administration and recognized at our regular meeting, at their secondary school, and in our local paper.

In 2009, I helped organize the first Certified Interact club at PS 155 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The principal not only embraced the goals of Interact, but also the benefits of having his school adopt the Four Way Test as a guide for student behaviour within their school, community, and country. I continue to communicate with the Principal on a regular basis, exchanging ideas and looking for opportunities for the PS 155 and G.P. Vanier Interact Club in Courtenay to work together. The two Interact clubs exchange packages, videos, and projects that they are involved in. Members of each club have become more understanding of the cultural differences as well as similarities of each other’s schools and countries.

Recently, I initiated a district grant application for an international project proposed by the Interact Club of PS 155 in Kyiv, Ukraine and assisted by the G.P. Vanier Interact Club in Courtenay. The project focuses on increasing immunization awareness in Ukraine, particularly the rural regions where immunization is viewed with uncertainty by many people. The uniting of two Interact clubs, one in Kyiv and one in Courtenay, in a humanitarian project such as immunization awareness helps illustrate to students how people from different countries can make a positive change in the lives of others.

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