Ipswich High club to present at United Nations-hosted event

Membership in Ipswich High’s Interact Club has grown from 30 or so, to roughly 130.
Membership in Ipswich High’s Interact Club has grown from 30 or so, to roughly 130.
Ipswich Interact Club

IPSWICH — You can’t argue with numbers, and a group from the Ipswich High School Interact Club will talk about why its numbers are rising at a United Nations-hosted event scheduled for Saturday.

The students will make a presentation on how to build a strong club at a meeting with other Interact clubs from around the world during Rotary Day at the United Nations. Seventy people from Ipswich will make the trip to New York.

“How many people can say they’re going to be a guest speaker at the United Nations?” said Mara Tzizik, a senior who is president of the club. “Even if it’s not in front of [all of the] diplomats, just to be in that building and to have the opportunity to speak in front of 2,000 people is mind-boggling. The fact that our club is being recognized for doing so well, and that all of the work we’re putting into this is paying off, it’s an honor.”

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The event is sponsored by Rotary representatives of the United Nations, and some diplomats and UN staffers will be in attendance along with members of Rotary International and affiliated clubs.

The Ipswich group was one of three selected to present at the event, along with a team from New York and another from Serbia. Other clubs from the North region making the trek are from Rockport, Gloucester, and Chelsea.

The eight-student contingent responsible for the presentation will leave Friday and stay overnight in New York. The rest of the students will leave Ipswich by bus at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, returning that night. The students are paying $80 for the trip; presenters received $3,000 from the Institution for Savings to cover expenses.

As of Tuesday the UN visit was still scheduled, despite damage in New York City from Hurricane Sandy.

Interact Clubs — the name is a combination of “International” and “Action” — are high school service groups sponsored by Rotary. There also are versions of the club for those of college age and younger groups.

Two years ago, membership in the Ipswich club hovered between 20 and 30, but membership is now estimated between 117 and 130.

That is just one set of numbers. There is also the nearly $4,000 raised for charitable causes last year; the 12 events run by the club each year; and the 100 senior citizens served at a popular annual luncheon. The group also restored a gazebo — a victim of age and vandalism — this summer at Bialek Park.

The group also held a March polar plunge to raise money for the fight against polio; held the annual January talent show to raise funds for a teenage suicide prevention organization; participated in the Jingle Bell Walk in December; and hosted a leadership day for other Interact clubs.

Chuck Holman, the Ipswich High teacher who serves as faculty liaison, said the club is growing because of the personality and enthusiasm of its officers over the past few years, and partly because of its heavy schedule.

“If you’ve got something going, people feel like they’re doing something and being useful, and utilized. That’s the only way you’re going to get a club like this to work,” he said.

Vice president Britta Galanis noted that she and the other officers — Tzizik, Libby Cornacchio, Maggie Brown, and Ellie Dolan — are a good mix.

“We have five different personalities and five different groups of friends, but we fit together well,” said Galanis, who said that the New York trip itself has also been a major recruiting tool.

“Last year was the first year for the United Nations trip, and that got everybody excited, and a lot of people joined the club just to go,” she said. “After the trip, we were all closer, and we bonded. That got people interested in staying.”

Keith Harris, a local businessman who serves as Rotary adviser, said the trip really made an impact.

“It planted a seed for these kids,” he said. “They looked around and saw kids from all over the world, and got a picture of how easy it is — as a high school student in Ipswich — to reach out and touch someone from around the world.’’