CHS Guatemala group

Students in Corvallis High School’s Interact club are raising funds to serve in Guatemala this summer: Benjamin Carrasco, Nicholas Spinetta, Christian Reed, Kaylee Evans, Whitney Wyche, Kristen Saturday, Maria Hickey, Brian Healy and Andrew Schlimgen. Donations can be made to the Hamilton Rotary Foundation.

Students from Corvallis High School’s Interact Club, a philanthropic organization sponsored by Hamilton Rotary, will be traveling to Guatemala for service projects this July.

CHS Interact President Kaylee Evans consulted with Rotary member Marilyn Morris and developed the idea into an elaborate international service trip.

“I think this trip will give the Interact kids an opportunity to learn about life outside of [our] country,” Evans explains. “We get to go out and see how these people in third-world countries live...and we’d be able to appreciate much more about what we have.”

Morris said this partnership of travel-service is new.

“We’ve sponsored high school students as the Interact Club in Corvallis for 11 years and this is our first year (that) a small group of nine wanted to do an international service project where they go,” Morris said. “Rotary does student exchanges but this service-type of program is new.”

Morris said she and Evans searched for a partnership and found for a group of Rotarians from Libby that have been working in Guatemala on a Rotary-funded project of building a new water system for a village.

“We’ve now hooked up with them and now Rotarians and Interact students are all headed to Guatemala,” Morris said. “We got a grant from Rotary to purchase a computer for the school there and our students will teach (locals how to use it) while they are there.”

George Gerard and Mick Shea are trip organizers, chaperones and Rotary members from Libby.

Morris said the trip has the potential to be an every-other-year program of connecting Rotarians and Interact students.

“It will be such a good experience and we already have boots on the ground there,” Morris said. “My excitement comes from the students wanting to spend time and money helping others!”

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While Interact has a strong presence in community outreach and service in the Bitterroot Valley, the nine students behind Operation Guatemala wanted to take the meaning of service to the next level. Kaylee Evans, Kristen Saturday, Christian Reed, Whitney Wyche, Maria Hickey, Brian Healy, Drew Schlimgen, Nick Spinetta and Ben Carrasco are the students bringing this unique experience to life.

Designing an international service trip for an unprecedented experience has pushed these students to work hard and think creatively. They hope to have the program implemented in the school for future Interact members.

Carrasco said starting a new program is challenging.

“Getting something like this up and running is next to impossible,” Carrasco said. “But because of how hard Kaylee and all of us have been working, we have a really solid base of funds.”

While in Guatemala, these students will be participating in several projects. From fixing a school playground, to turning bicycles into human-powered machines, to teaching Guatemalans basic computer skills, these students hope to maximize their time and efforts overseas.

“I think this trip is a great opportunity to better the lives of less fortunate children in Guatemala,” Schlimgen said. “This student driven and directed service project will be a great opportunity for Corvallis students to learn about other cultures and make a lasting impact on the lives of others.”

Most of the Corvallis students, born and raised in Montana, said they are looking forward to traveling and serving in a third-world country.

With a goal of $20,000 for airfare, lodging and transportation, the students are working hard to raise money throughout the community. While fundraising projects are getting the ball rolling, donations are welcome. Donate to the Hamilton Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 278, Hamilton, Montana 59840 or visit the CHS Interact Go Fund Me page: gf.me/u/h9k4ny.

“The community’s efforts to support our student group is greatly appreciated,” Saturday said. “After all, a chance like this doesn’t come around often. [The trip] is a humbling opportunity that will give us the perspective and initiative to make the world a better place.”