Growing up, I was told that school was my job. It was work. If I received good grades, I could go to college. If I graduated college, I could get a good job. The problem was that I didn’t see either for the opportunities they were. I got my grades, but I never tried to connect with things outside of my group of friends. I just did my job.

I’m happy to report that, from an outsider’s perspective, the number of students who think like I once did is shrinking. They’re instead finding new ways to connect to their communities, and communities are recognizing the value students can bring to local businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. Testament to this increasing level of student involvement is Baraboo High School’s student-run Interact Club.

“It’s the high school branch of the Rotary Club of Baraboo,” says Baraboo High School junior Anna Colette Robson Leach. The Rotary Club’s website describes its member as “dedicated people who share a passion for community service and friendship. Becoming a Rotarian connects you with a diverse group who share your drive to give back.” Not only do Interact Club members share this spirit, they also have a direct positive impact on the entire student body.

Baraboo High School senior Brady Johnson says, “Around Thanksgiving, we had a thankful wall set up where students would come up during lunch time and write what they’re thankful for. We put a mural at the staircase.”

“We got a lot of participation,” adds Anna. “And not just silly answers. People really thought about it.”

The number of classmates outside of Interact Club wanting to do something authentic might be due to the club’s higher-than-normal membership this year, at 35 members. Even though Baraboo High School has a student population over 900, having roughly 4 percent of students regularly putting together events and brainstorming ways to inspire others is proving successful. Brady and Anna are hoping to continue that trend with this year’s Food for Kidz event.

Food for Kidz is a nonprofit organization focused on packaging and distributing meals to children and families where crisis has struck, including natural disasters, war, and famine. The packaging event is open to all members of the community.

“We do two shifts of Food for Kidz,” says Anna. “We do one during the school day so that clubs and students who want to participate can. Last year was the first time we ran two shifts, and it went extremely well. We had a lot of people participate who usually can’t because of sports and other commitments.”

Brady adds, “There were some classes that came down. The teacher brought their class down and helped out for 30 minutes as part of their normal class day.

“After that, everyone was talking about it. They had so much fun. So now people are really excited this year.” April 30 will be Interact Club’s sixth annual Food for Kidz.

“It takes so much organizing because we have to raise a lot of money to get the company to come here and run the event,” says Anna. “Our [Anna and Brady’s] whole job this year is to raise the money and organize the event.”

Another staple of Interact Club is their three annual blood drives, also open to the public. Two drives take place at the high school during the school year, and a third takes place at St. Paul’s church in the summer.

“I definitely feel more connected to my community because of Interact,” says Anna. “Every time you have a blood drive, you see that one community member, and it’s really fun to talk to them. That’s another great community connection that we have.”

Being involved in events outside of the school, has created a reciprocal relationship between Interact Club and the city of Baraboo. Anna and Brady note that a lot of their projects actually come from within the community. One of those events is a collaboration with Baraboo Community Heroes, a nonprofit developed to provide safety education for youth while addressing local socio-economic concerns. The event is called Holiday with a Hero.

As part of the event, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and healthcare workers take children shopping before returning to the Baraboo Arts Center. At the Arts Center, children receive food items and household necessities. Children can also participate in arts and crafts at a table hosted by Interact Club.

Interact Club has a unique flexibility in this way. Whatever the size of the event taking place in Baraboo, they can squeeze in. Though the club doesn’t have the resources to host everything going on, they can fill gaps or add flair to ongoing events while throwing out some ideas of their own.

The goal of Interact Club isn’t to fill egos, but to build connection. Students are learning the intrinsic rewards of being involved in the places they live—something they’ll carry far into adulthood. They’re also reminding the rest of us that we can take as active a role in our communities as we want. It doesn’t need to be something big. Pick up garbage at a park. Look for a local blood drive to donate to. Find out what schools in your area are doing and see if you can get involved.

Kyle Jacobson is a writer who dreams of opening a rock-and-roll-themed candy shop called Bon Bon Jovi.

Photographs provided by Interact Club.

If you or your business is interested in participating in this year’s Food for Kidz event, contact either Brady at or Anna at